On July 30, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law two bills approved by the Russian Parliament aimed at improving commercial, civil, administrative and criminal proceedings in Russia (the “Bills”).
The Bills, which will enter into force on September 1, 2019, require the audio recording of all civil and criminal proceedings and the automated allocation of cases between judges, allow preliminary court hearings to turn into main court hearings, clarify the status of judicial assistants, and introduce certain disciplinary liabilities for judges.
Legal proceedings in Russia should become quicker and more transparent, and court decisions should become more independent and less susceptible to influence by interested third parties.
And the outcome of cases should become, as a result, more predictable.
Audio recordings of court hearings will be introduced into civil and criminal proceedings. Such recordings will be mandatory only in first instance courts and on appeal, with one exception – no audio recordings will be made at trials specifically closed to the public by the court. Persons involved in legal proceedings will have the same rights with audio recordings as they now do with traditional written minutes – to get familiar with the recordings, and to object to any inaccuracies or incompleteness. This also includes the right to review the recordings and submit comments.
Automated Allocation of Cases
According to the Bills the composition of the court considering a particular case, regardless of the type of procedure, will be determined by an automated system, which will take into account the workload and specialization of judges in each particular court. Should this system not be available for use, the court should be formed in another way to exclude any possible interference by interested parties. Such approach will increase the independence and autonomy of the judges as well as decrease potential corruption elements.
Preliminary Court Hearings Become Main Court Hearings
To accelerate the consideration of civil and administrative cases, the Bills make it possible for a preliminary court hearing to turn into a main court hearing where the case may be considered on the merits.
In this regard, all the following conditions must be met: (1) the court finds the case well-prepared; (2) the hearing is attended by all persons participating in the case – or in their absence, where all persons were duly informed of the hearing, and no objections were raised to the case being heard in their absence; and (3) the case does not need to be heard by a panel of judges.
Status of Judicial Assistant
The Bills set the status of judicial assistants in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings just as was done in the Russian Commercial Procedure Code and regulate the powers of judicial assistants in the course of preparation and during the consideration and adjudication of cases.
Those participating in legal proceedings will be able to challenge the allocation of a particular judicial assistant in a particular case.
By Sergey Yuryev, Partner, CMS Russia.
This Article was originally published in Issue 5.11 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.