Russian courts: breaking what was fixed, cont’d

No relief on the home front. As I have mentioned earlier, Russia is merging its relatively decent arbitration courts into the general jurisdiction system, which sounds proverbially like adding a jug of honey to a barrel of sh*t. According to Kommersant, many judges from the team of Anton Ivanov, the chairman of the soon-to-disappear supreme court of arbitration, have been disqualified from the new supreme court. Does not bode well for the “de-offshorization” campaign.

Putin will go and the regime will change one day, sooner or later. But how are we going to deal with these judges? Nothing short of a revolutionary change will help. Arbitration courts should be brought back and the business community asked to pick judges it can trust. But to fix criminal justice, the bare minimum would be a tectonic change in the legal principles and a thorough purge of prosecutors and judges.

Yeltsin’s reformers deserve credit for introducing a different procedure for jury trials, similar to Anglo-Saxon procedure; unfortunately, they failed to extend this practice to a large enough number of cases to make it the norm, rather than an exception. Still it was a good start we could build on in post-Putin Russia. Apart from extending the use of jury trials, it would be a great idea to introduce voir dire, unanimous or qualified-majority verdicts, and much stricter rules of evidence to protect the accused.

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