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