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Will recent changes to Russia’s litigation system improve the perception of Russian courts on the global stage? Timur Aitkulov, partner at Clifford Chance’s Moscow office specialising in international arbitration, cross-border and domestic litigation, explains the key reforms of recent years and assesses their likely impact in practice.
It is no secret that the Russian court system has not been considered to be reliable in the last 20 years or more.
One of the directions of reform was concerning the transparency of justice. This has been addressed by the introduction of a website where one can find information on all cases that come under the consideration of Arbitrazh Courts. It is also possible to download copies of court decisions, thereby making the system considerably more transparent.
Another direction was regarding the unification of the Arbitrazh Courts’ approach to the application of law. The presidium of the Supreme Arbitrazh Court was therefore authorised to issue decrees clarifying how the law shall be applied, and these decrees became binding on lower courts in similar cases. There have been instances where these decrees have been quite revolutionary.
The separate Judicial Board for Economic Disputes will basically replace the Presidium of the Supreme Arbitrazh Court. However, since the majority of judges who will be sitting on the Judicial Board for Economic Disputes are current Supreme Arbitrazh Court judges, I do not expect any major changes in their approach to cases.
However, it is worth noting that it is likely that only the Plenum of the Supreme Court will be entitled to give clarifications on the application of law binding on lower courts in similar cases. Also, decisions of the Judicial Board for Economic Disputes will be subject to further supervisory appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court.
The proposed amendments to the Arbitrazh Procedure Code are still in a draft form. One of the major changes contemplated by the draft is a two-stage cassation appeal process. First-stage cassation appeals will be filed with the District Arbitrazh Courts (currently called Federal District Arbitrazh Courts), and the second-stage cassation appeal will be filed with the Judicial Board for Economic Disputes. The Presidium of the Supreme Court will hear supervisory appeals against decisions of the Judicial Board for Economic Disputes.
It is too early to say how this reform will play out, but I am hopeful that it will help in terms of increasing the predictability of judgments.
To what extent are these reforms likely to improve the global perception of Russian courts?
I do not think that any changes in law will change the perception of Russian courts internationally—it is to a large extent not about what the law says, but whether or not it is complied with, regardless of the size of the dispute and the identity of the opposite party.
Timur Aitkulov is a partner at Clifford Chance’s Moscow office specialising in international arbitration, cross-border and domestic litigation
Interviewed by Jenny Rayner. The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
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