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Russian Courts Move towards Transparency

Source: Institute for Information Freedom Development

Date: 7 June, 2011

The Supreme Arbitration Court of Russia starts publishing on its official website dissenting opinions. Up to now, they have been included in case materials but even case parties have had no access to them, says Pravo.ru.

The first dissenting opinion to be published is expressed by Sergey Sarbash, member of the Supreme Arbitration Court Presidium and chair of the Court expert community. Dissenting opinions, he says to Pravo.ru, are of interest for researchers and can be used by case parties, though having no binding force for judges.

Full text of the Pravo.ru article in Russian.

Besides that, the Moscow City Court will publish openly all applications from officials and politicians, says the Russian Agency for Legal and Judicial Information (:http://www.infosud.ru/judicial_news/20110601/252796285.html).

The novelty is supposed to eliminate behind-the-scenes influence upon the judicial power branch as well as any pressure on judges, therefore promoting judicial independence. Officials and politicians caring for their own reputations are expected to avoid "informal" influencing courts.

The court has published in PDF format letters from the State Duma members: Vladimir Komoedov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Gennady Zyuganov, as well as one from Anatoly Kucherena, Chair of the Commission for Public Control of Activities and Reforming of Law Enforcement Bodies and of Judicial/Legal System. Official responses of the Moscow City Court are published together with the applications they answer to.

Applications and responses (in Russian) can be found at the special page at the court website: http://www.mos-gorsud.ru/obr/obrruk/

Arbitration courts were the first to introduce this practice in Russia. On December 2, 2010, Ivan Pavlov, JD, PhD, IIFD Board Chair, took part in discussing urgent issues related to the judicial reform as part of discussion club organized by the Presidential Council for developing civil society institutions and human rights.
During the event, Pavlov spoke in favor of the idea of publishing non-procedural applications by general jurisdiction courts also. Answering to their expressions of doubt, he asked the arbitration court judges present at the event whether this practice helped them to defend independence of courts.
"Surely," was the reply from an event participant, chairperson of an arbitration court. "They practically stopped trying to influence us by means of non-procedural letters concerning cases to be reviewed by our court".

We see publication of non-procedural letters as a means of reforming the judicial system in the direction of real judicial independence.