Courts and Transition in Russia: The Challenge of Judicial Reform

By Peter H. Solomon Jr.; Todd S. Foglesong | Go to book overview

4
Jurisdiction, Power, and Prestige

To say that courts or judges in a country are powerful usually means three things: first, that courts have effective jurisdiction that reaches at least some politically sensitive matters or affects the working of the rest of government; second, that both the public and government respect the courts and their performance and readily turn to them for the resolution of problems; and third, that judges have institutions of their own through which they can influence public policy, especially in areas relating to their work. In none of these senses of "power" were courts or judges powerful in the Soviet period. For most of Soviet history courts had a highly restricted role in assessing the legality of administrative actions; they had no significant constitutional jurisdiction; and they played a limited role in commercial disputes and the management of criminal investigations. On the whole, the prestige of courts was low, among public and officialdom alike. Judges lacked any professional associations or bodies through which they could share concerns and express positions on policy matters.

In post-Soviet Russia, this portrait of weak courts and powerless judges has changed to a considerable degree. To begin, there has been a revolution in the jurisdiction of courts, such that courts of one kind or another now scrutinize the legality of officials' actions and the constitutionality of legislation, resolve commercial disputes, review decisions about pre-trial detention, and enforce a variety of citizens' rights. Furthermore, the community of judges has succeeded in forming a set of institutions -- among them a congress of judges and councils of judges on the national and regional/republican levels -- which, while lacking

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Courts and Transition in Russia: The Challenge of Judicial Reform
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Figures vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xii
  • Part One - Courts and Their Reform in Post-Soviet Russia 1
  • 1 - Judicial Reform in Russia: Politics and Policies 3
  • Notes 20
  • Part Two - Building Judicial Institutions 27
  • Notes 28
  • 2 - The Independence of Courts and Judges 29
  • Notes 43
  • 3 - The Autonomy and Accountability of Trial Court Judges 47
  • Notes 61
  • 4 - Jurisdiction, Power, and Prestige 67
  • Notes 85
  • 5 - Staffing the Courts: Recruitment and Training 92
  • Notes 108
  • Part Three - Improving Performance 111
  • Notes 112
  • 6 - The Administration of Justice: Simplification and Efficiency 114
  • Notes 135
  • 7 - Criminal Justice: the Pre-Trial Phase 142
  • Notes 157
  • 8 - Civil and Commercial Judgments: the Problem of Implementation 163
  • Notes 174
  • Part Four - Strategy: the Agenda for Reform *
  • 9 - What Remains to Be Done 177
  • Notes 193
  • Appendix A - Key Laws in Russian Judicial Reform (1991-1998) 199
  • Appendix B - Composite List of Recommendations 202
  • Appendix C - Survey of Judges: Selected Questions 206
  • Appendix D - List of Persons Consulted or Interviewed 211
  • Index 215
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