Judicial Power of Russia
Judicial Power Summary | General Jurisdiction Courts | Arbitration Courts | Sources |
Last updated: November 11, 2016
The judicial power in Russia is implemented by means of hierarchical system of courts.
At present there are two top-level courts in Russia:
- Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over judicial issues except the constitutional ones;
- Constitutional Court, which address solely constitutional issues (there can also be independent Constitutional or Statute Courts at the level of subjects of the Federation);
Source: compilation of factosphere.com based on appropriate legislative acts and regulations.
Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation (Konstitutsionny Sud, Конституционный суд) has the jurisdiction solely over constitutional issues. Specifically, the court resolves disputes on compliance of legislative acts with Constitution of the Russian Federation and disputes on competence between Russian federal and regional state bodies.
Besides this, it checks the validity of statute of laws applied in the course of specific lawsuits based on filed complaints related to infringement of constitutional rights and freedoms. It also provides interpretation of the Constitution based on requests of the President, the Russian Government, the State Duma and the Council of the Federation.
There is a number of other specific competences of the Constitutional Court provided in article 125 of the Russian Constitution. The Constitutional Court operates under the federal law No. 1-FKZ “On Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation” dated July 21, 1994.
Constitutional Courts of Subjects of the Federation or Statute Courts of Subject of the Federation (Ustavny Sud, Уставный суд) are established by subjects of the Federation in order to resolve disputes on compliance of laws and regulations of a subject of the Federation and its local self-governance bodies with the Constitution or Statute of a subject of the Federation. These courts also provides interpretation of the Constitution or Statute of a subject of the Federation. It is important that they are financed from the budgets of appropriate subjects of the Federation.
Important note: Constitutional Courts are established in the republics of Russia that act under own constitutions envisaging existence of constitutional courts, while Statute Courts are established in the other types of subjects of the Federationthat act under statutes that envisage existence of statute courts.
Constitutional and Statute Courts of the subjects of the Federation are factually independent courts without any superior judicial power body (the Russian Constitutional Court is just a “model” court for them).
As of the mid-2016, there were totally 17 Constitutional and Statute Courts of subjects of the Federation.
List of republics with Constitutional Courts includes Republic of Adygea, Republic of Bashkortostan, Republic of Buryatia, Republic of Dagestan, Republic of Ingushetia, Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Republic of Karelia, Republic of Komi, Republic of Mari El, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Republic of Northern Osetia – Alania, Republic of Tatarstan, Republic of Tyva and Republic of Chechnya (14 out of 22 republics).
List of subjects of the Federation with Statute Courts includes the city of St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad region and Sverdlovsk region.
Supreme Court (Verkhovny Sud, Верховный Суд) handles all top level judicial issues except the constitutional ones. Specifically, key competences of this court include:
- Supervision over general jurisdiction courts and acting as an appeal court and a court of cassation for civil and criminal cases heard and decided upon by supervised courts;
- Acting as a trial court (i.e. court of first instance) in the course of contesting legislative acts and selected non-legislative acts issued by the state legislative and executive bodies;
- Acting as a trial court while suspending activities of political parties, public and religious organisations, as well as the mass media broadcasting to more than one region;
- Acting as a trial court in the course of contesting decisions/actions of Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (with some exceptions) and cancellation of registration of candidates for federal positions in the course of elections (specifically, Presidential candidates and State Duma candidates);
- Acting as a trial court for disputes between federal state bodies and state bodies of subjects of the Federation (Russian regions).
The present Chairperson (Chief Justice) of the Russian Supreme Court is Mr. Vyacheslav Lebedev.
General Jurisdiction Courts and Arbitration Courts
Under Supreme Court there are General Jurisdiction Courts and Arbitration Courts. Before the year 2014 arbitration courts were under supervision of Supreme Arbitration Court, but on February 5, 2014 the federal constitutional law No. 3-FKZ “On Supreme Court of the Russian Federation” came into force. The law abolished Supreme Arbitration Court, and its functions had been transferred to the Supreme Court.
General Jurisdiction Courts (plural: Sudy Obschey Yurisdiktsii or so-called “ordinary” courts, Суды общей юрисдикции) process a wide range of civil, administrative and criminal cases. The system of “ordinary” courts is a cornerstone of the Russian judicial power that is exposed to the highest workload.
Arbitration Courts (plural: Arbitrazhnye Sudy, Arbitrazh Courts, Арбитражные суды) represent the system of commercial courts that are separately assigned to address business-related disputes (including both commercial disputes and a part of administrative and public law disputes). It shall be stressed that Arbitration Courts in Russia are government courts.
At present introduction of private arbitration courts in Russia is on the way (such private court is called ‘Treteisky Sud’ in Russian).
In 2015 the Ministry of Justice prepared draft of the law “On Private Arbitration in the Russian Federation”, which passed first hearing in the State Duma on July 1, 2015. However, the draft was not accepted by professional community and was sharply criticized due to dependence of private arbitration courts on the state.
On December 29, 2015 the federal law “On Private Arbitration in the Russian Federation” was finally adopted by the Russian Parliament and came into force on September 1, 2016. According to the law, private arbitration courts are established in Russia under non-commercial organisations (Article 44). For that purpose the non-commercial organisations have to obtain the right for arbitration activities provided by appropriate legislative acts of the Russian Government subject to recommendation of the Council on Development of Private Arbitration (Russian: Sovet po Sovershenstvovaniyu Treteiskogo Razbiratelstva, Совето по Совершенствованию Третейского Разбирательства). The exceptions with no need to obtain the right are International Commercial Arbitration Court and Maritime Arbitration Commission under the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.
The Council on Development of Private Arbitration is established under authorized federal executive power body (presently the Ministry of Justice) and comprises representatives of the state power bodies and national entrepreneurship organisations, as well as legal, scientific and business community members. The present Chairman of the Council is Mr. Mikhail Galperin, who is also the Deputy Minister of Finance. The first meeting of the Council took place on September 27, 2016.
Judicial System Developments
At present there is an on-going discussion on changes in the Russian system of general jurisdiction courts assuming introduction of new levels of courts above the regional ones similarly to appeal and circuit arbitration courts. That would allow to decrease influence of the regional authorities on the general jurisdiction courts and provide extended guarantees of their independence and objectivity. On November 10, 2016 Mr. Vyacheslav Lebedev, the Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court, proposed to establish 5 appeal courts and 9 circuit (cassation) courts.