President Vladimir Putin: Anton Alexandrovich, let’s begin with accessibility and transparency of the courts’ work. What is happening in this area and how is it reflected in the work of the arbitration court system as a whole and on public confidence in their work?
Anton Ivanov: We have already made considerable progress in ensuring that our court system is open and transparent. Practically all decisions passed by the Supreme Arbitration Court are published on our web site. We also publish all the decisions passed by lower courts related to cases we are examining. Now we are starting a new stage and will also publish statements of refusal, that is, the legal statements we draw up when we refuse to review a case. This will enable the public to know the Supreme Arbitration Court’s legal position as it relates to negative decisions.
Vladimir Putin: So you will explain the grounds for such refusals?
Anton Ivanov: Yes, we will explain why. We are also completing work on setting up a single portal for all court decisions passed by our courts. It should be ready to start work in February and will contain the decisions passed by all our courts. These decisions will be available all in one place and will be open for the public to study freely.
Vladimir Putin: This is good news. How do you assess confidence in the judicial system, in particular in the arbitration courts? And could you also say a few words about the courts’ accessibility?
Anton Ivanov: I think that public confidence is one of the key issues for our judicial system. We are doing everything we can to increase public confidence. Transparency is only one element, one part of our work in this direction. We need to ensure, of course, that the whole organisation of this process, the way it is carried out, and the courtrooms themselves all focus on ensuring public access, ensuring that all citizens who wish to turn to the courts can do so. Today, since it is we who examine business disputes, thousands of ordinary shareholders turn to our courts, and we must make the situation as convenient as possible for them.
Vladimir Putin: How many lawsuits are filed in the courts in different regions of the Russian Federation? This, after all, is also an indicator of public confidence. If people are turning to the courts it means they have confidence in them.
Anton Ivanov: The number of civil cases is growing steadily, and in some regions, in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, for example, there is a real explosion in the number of cases. I think this is partly to do with an upsurge of economic activity in these regions, and partly to do with the fact that people have confidence in us and are therefore turning to us. At the same time, the number of administrative cases related to fines has decreased. The tax authorities now impose fines themselves and citizens can only dispute them by filing complaints in our courts. This has considerably lightened the load on judges and means that they can examine the serious cases before them more attentively and professionally.
Vladimir Putin: But what else needs to be done to achieve real improvement in all of these areas – after all, things are still far from ideal.
Anton Ivanov: I am very much aware that the question of public confidence is a highly complicated issue. I think it is important in this respect that everyone understands how the courts function and realises that you cannot judge a judge’s work just on the basis of what some dissatisfied citizen or other who has lost a case in this particular court says. I think that our judges need to explain more clearly, above all in their court decisions, the reasons for their decisions. Stable court practice is another very important element in raising public confidence: all similar cases should be decided in the same way at all stages, all according to the same rules. If court decisions become more predictable, those who are honestly defending their rights will have hope and confidence that the court will indeed protect their rights, and this will naturally help to increase the public’s confidence in the courts.