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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at the Petersburg International Economic Forum a planned combining of the Supreme Court of Russia and the Supreme Arbitration Court into a single body. Experts see no connection between the president’s idea and the aims of the judicial reform, and consider his statement as a political move. The legal community took the news rather frostily.
The Rossiiskaya Gazeta cites Putin as saying “we also have done much to eliminate the accusatory trends in the work of its law enforcement and judiciary systems and to rule out the possibility of transferring economic disputes to the realm of criminal law”. Amendments to the Constitution will be needed and the issue must be considered at the autumn session.
Academic disputes around the merger of the two courts had begun already before the Constitution of 1993 was passed, the RBK Daily writes. However, the Friday statement of the president came as a surprise for most influential legal experts, including for the chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, Anton Ivanov. He said “the unification is not discussed in any way so far”.
“The division of the courts in Russia into tribunals of commerce and general jurisdiction courts made it possible for every branch of the judicial power to specialize in its category of disputes,” the head of arbitral procedure of the VEGAS LEX law firm, Kirill Trukhanov, said. “Possibly thanks largely to this division a smoothly functioning system of arbitrary courts was set up,” he said.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta marks that on the sidelines of the forum Anton Ivanov spoke rather critically about the project. He compared the future unified structure with a dinosaurs guided by a small brain that needs tuning. And he also stressed that it is not a merger of the systems that is implied, but only the unification of the superior bodies of the two courts. Meanwhile, the newspaper stresses that at a meeting marking a Constitution anniversary in April he himself spoke about major problems of a separate existence of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Arbitration Court.
Professor Lidiya Voskobitova from the Independent Expert Legal Council is cited by the Novye Izvestia as saying that she believed nothing good could be expected from that merger, as both authorities have specific competences. “It will take many years to see them functioning normally,” she believes. “One cannot expect a quick effect - like they are united today and tomorrow we see something has improved. And this is so far only a notice of intention, but I have seen neither the legislative basis nor conceptual approaches, that is why the situation is not clear,” she said. “No particular prospects are seen, all the more that we have not yet finished the reform that is connected with the control of decisions in the civil criminal practice,” she added.