Courts and Transition in Russia: The Challenge of Judicial Reform

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

6
The Administration of Justice: Simplification and Efficiency

The widening jurisdiction of the courts, discussed in Chapter 5, was matched by a rapid growth in the demand for judicial remedies. Between 1987 and 1997, the number of civil, criminal, and administrative cases heard by courts in Russia more than doubled. The growth in civil litigation, especially since 1994, has been dramatic, and was, possibly, a hopeful sign of a growth of public confidence in the courts (see Table 6.111). But the judiciary has been overwhelmed by the new demand for its services. Delays and backlogs are now commonplace -- especially in criminal cases. The inability of courts to ensure a speedy trial has damaged their fragile reputation at a most inopportune time.

As we shall see, several measures were taken by government authorities to improve the capacity of the courts, including the creation of more judicial posts and the endorsement of procedural simplifications. But as a rule these measures represented too little too late. Throughout the 1990s judges in Russia worked under extreme pressure, struggling to find ways of coping with an excess of work and insufficient resources, exacerbated by rigidities in legal requirements and unrealistic demands. Every so often, as the pressure became too much for some judges, a significant number chose to leave judicial posts, and the leaders of the judicial community spoke of a "crisis." Such crises occurred in 1989, 1992, 1995, and again in 1996-1997, when some judges threatened to strike. 2 At each of these junctures, the government reacted by improving the salaries or benefits of judges themselves, but not, as we have seen, by augmenting the funding of the courts and their operations. 3

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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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