The history of Russia’s supreme legislative authority for civil, criminal and administrative cases and economic disputes began with the establishment of the Supreme Court of the RSFSR in 1923. In 2014, the Supreme Court was merged with the Higher Arbitration Court.
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Speech at a meeting dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Russia
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lebedev, colleagues and friends,
I would like to begin by congratulating you on the 95th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Russia and wishing professional success to the court’s judges and staff. I am sincerely grateful to the veterans for their years of hard work in the country’s judicial system and for their contribution to strengthening law and order in the country.
The Supreme Court played an invaluable role in the creation of a streamlined judicial practice and greatly contributed to the regulation of the national legislation and the promotion of vital judicial reforms.
In the early 1990s, the Supreme Court was actually the driving force behind the reforms that have changed the Russian judicial framework, which is now based on such fundamental principles as independence, accessibility, openness, immunity and irremovability of judges, and the adversarial nature of the judicial process. Of course, not all problems have been resolved. But the basic principles have taken root and are being improved and strengthened.
The courts, including the Supreme Court, consider millions of cases every year, and each case involves human lives.
Summarising the judicial practice, the Supreme Court ensures a uniform understanding and application of legal norms, actually providing an official interpretation of legal acts. This helps uphold the constitutional principles of the rule of law and equality before the law and court.
The Supreme Court’s law-making activity is of vital importance. It fills the gaps in legislation, eliminating controversy, streamlining many clauses and giving them greater clarity. It is important that this work meets the needs of the citizens and the national economy, and fits with modern trends emerging in the age of rapid technological change. One must always remember that law is shaped by life itself.
In this regard, I would like to note that the merger of the Supreme Court and Higher Arbitration Court has helped to resolve differences in the legal positions on a number of important issues, to achieve uniformity of judicial practice, and greater legal certainty, which is very important for the development of the economy and entrepreneurship, thereby ensuring the principle of equality of citizens before the law. We all remember when absolutely different rulings were passed on the same cases in the arbitration courts system and in general jurisdiction courts. Thank God, this is history now.
In 2012 and 2013, appeals proceedings on civil and criminal cases were introduced. This legal institution was sponsored by the Supreme Court and has proved itself in the best possible way.
Since 2016, Russians can file lawsuits and submit other documents online. This increased the accessibility of justice, and has helped reduce the time needed for the consideration of cases and avoid unnecessary red tape.
This is only part of the great work done by the Supreme Court to strengthen Russian justice.
Colleagues, an independent, modern and efficient judicial system is essential for developing a democratic social state ruled by law, a free, responsible and active civil society, a strong economy and a competitive business environment.
Clearly, Russian courts, primarily the supreme judicial authority, must have all the capabilities to reliably and effectively ensure the right of our citizens to judicial protection. It is a key constitutional provision, which must be complied with unconditionally.
It is notable that the Supreme Court is modernising the judicial system and improving its operation. In particular, the establishment of general district courts of appeals and cassation will offer new opportunities for appealing court decisions. These district courts will be based on principles of extraterritorial jurisdiction, which will enhance their independence.
Jointly with experts, the Supreme Court has drafted a series of amendments to legislation regarding procedural and institutional forms of judicial activity. I assure you that I have studied them carefully. I have held several meetings with Mr Lebedev to discuss these amendments. I believe that they will help improve the legal framework of the court procedure.
Specifically, there are plans to decrease the courts’ workload by removing irrelevant issues and documents, which take up so much of the judges’ time but are rarely required in reality.
The court has proposed many innovations, for example, in organising the work of the presidents of courts. We must review and analyse all these proposals carefully and without undue haste before taking a decision.
Of course, we must avoid mistakes in this delicate sphere that is of crucial significance for the state, and the new laws must definitely not be applied retroactively.
It is obvious – I believe that our colleagues in this room and those who are attending this meeting via videoconference will agree – that judges and presidents of courts must be relieved of managerial or organisational duties that are not part of the judicial profession. These duties could be turned over to court administrators, as the Supreme Court has proposed. This would improve the quality of court proceedings and the objectivity and independence of judges, reduce corruption risks and lastly, relieve judges from non-relevant managerial duties.
In addition, there is a proposal to introduce a new measure of disciplinary liability for judges, namely, lowering their qualification class. Of course, the criteria must be defined first that would draw a clear line between a judicial error and a disciplinary offence.
Additional authority will be given to assistant judges, in particular, they will be entitled to draw up draft judicial rulings. It is no secret that this has long been done in practical work because of judges’ heavy workload. At the same time, of course, assistant judges must have the proper qualifications and experience.
Introduction of information technology is another important issue, without which modern legal proceedings are inconceivable. For example, it has been proposed to introduce an automated distribution of cases between judges in courts, as well as mandatory audio recording of court sessions. As you may be aware, this is already widely used in practice.
I would like the Supreme Court to cooperate with parliamentarians, so that the above legislative initiatives are adopted as soon as possible. Of course, I would like to emphasise once again, they must be thoroughly elaborated. This will improve the accessibility and openness of the judicial system, and will, therefore, provide more effective guarantees of the rights, freedoms and interests of Russian citizens.
Colleagues, the Supreme Court today pays much attention to personnel policy. Picking candidates for the position of judge has become a more thorough process. Family members can no longer work in courts of procedural subordination. The practice of declaring incomes by candidates for judicial positions is being improved, as are other measures for combating corruption. This practice is important and needs to continue.
A modern judge must be a professional, strictly observe the law, and serve as an example of personal integrity and independence. Of course, judges must have high legal culture and respect the participants of the proceedings. Such judges will enjoy credibility with the people, and their work and irreproachable conduct of the process will serve to increase the standing of the judiciary in our society.
Colleagues, in closing I would like to once again congratulate you on your anniversary, and to thank the judges, the Supreme Court staff, and the entire judiciary of Russia for the vast and extremely important work you are performing in good faith.
I wish you new successes. Thank you.