History of the Council of Judges

First Council of Judges (1991 – 1993)

The Law “On the Status of Judges in the USSR” was adopted in 1989. Article 14 of that Law provided for calling conferences of judges of the Subjects of the Union and the Subjects of the Republics on an annual basis.

The following issues were referred to the competence of the conferences: discussing the issues of law enforcement arising in judicial practice, applying to superior courts with requests for directives, clarifications and interpretation of the laws, electing the Judges Qualification Panels.

However, the judges did not limit themselves to the discussion of those issues only, but began to discuss the problems that had accumulated by that time, as well, and in particular, the issues of availability of resources, social protection of the judges and interrelation with the law enforcement agencies. Thus began the process by which the judges organized themslves into a community.

In 1991 the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation V. Lebedev, the Minister of Justice N. Fedorov and a group of judges initiated calling the First All-Russian Congress of Judges, which was held on October 17 – 18, 1991, and adopted the resolution on creating the Judges Representatives Council as an agency operating in the intervals between the Congresses for the purpose of implementing judicial reform in Russia, protecting the judges’ interests and representing them in other bodies of state power.

In pursuance of that resolution the conferences to elect one representative to the Council were held in each Subject of the Russian Federation.

Already at that time the judges understood that they held the success of judicial reform in their own hands, and that the establishment of judicial power in Russia depended on their active stand, so besides being concerned with the internal needs of the judicial community the Council involved itself in practical assistance in implementing the RSFSR Supreme Soviet’s Decree “On the Concept of Judicial Reform in the RSFSR”.

In March of 1992 the Council of Judges held its first session in Moscow, where the 9- member Presidium of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation was elected.

Garold Nikolaevich Kartsev was elected the first Chairman of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation.

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bobrov and Vladimir Venidiktovich Demidov were elected Deputy Chairmen of the Council.

Afterwards the Presidium membership increased to 12 persons.

Pursuant to the Russian Federation Council of Judges Presidium’s Decree of August 27, 1992, in order to render assistance more effectively, the Presidium assigned its members to the regions of the country. The Presidium member responsible for a certain area was to render all necessary assistance to the members of the Council of Judges of that area, to always be in touch with them, inform them of the Presidium’s resolutions and of the decisions of the bodies of central power. Besides that, the Presidium members were to represent the Council of Judges before the bodies of executive and legislative power in their area and wherever necessary to personally press for realization of the judges’ status.

By the date of the Council’s first session the Russian judicial system experienced deep crisis, the judicial corps was on the verge of collapse. In each region there were filed dozens – and in Russia in general – hundreds of judges’ resignations, and there was practically nobody willing to become a judge. So the first thing, that the Council commenced to work on, was the preparation of the Draft Law “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation”.

The Ministry of Justice of Russia had prepared a Draft Law “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation”, but it was subjected to severe criticism at the Council session, because it contained no guarantees of the judges’ independence, failed to solve social problems and was essentially empty of meaning in general. As a result, the Council developed a principally different new Draft, which was submitted to the Parliament for consideration. In the process of the Draft preparation a sort of a record was set: less than three months elapsed from the day when the first line was written to the day when the President of Russia signed it. It is indicative, that at introduction the Draft was signed not only by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, but also by the President of the Russian Federation and the Committee for Legislation of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation.

In June of 1992 the Draft was adopted and it became the main result of the work of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation of the first convocation.

The Council of Judges of the Russian Federation of the first convocation also directly participated in the work on the chapters of Draft Constitution of the Russian Federation dealing with judicial power, because it was the most interested in the effectiveness of justice, democratic guarantees and civil rights, which is evidenced by the resolution of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation of May 21, 1993.

Council of Judges (1993 – 1995)

The second All-Russian Congress of Judges was held on June 29 – 30, 1993. For the first time it was attended by judges of the courts of arbitration and military tribunals besides judges of the courts of general jurisdiction. It was another step towards uniting all judges of the country in a single community.

The Congress elected new members of the Council of Judges, among whom there were   judges of the courts of general jurisdiction and  judges of the courts of arbitration and military tribunals.

The Council of Judges membership increased to 112, and that of its Presidium to 15 persons. After a while the Council was joined by a judge of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

Thus, the Council of Judges became the sole body in the country to unite judges of courts of all levels from all Subjects of the Russian Federation. The role of uniting and coordinating is another major function of the Council.

The Congress adopted the Statute “On the Bodies of Judicial Community”, which defined the powers of the Council of Judges and set the regularity of its plenary sessions. In the intervals between Congresses the exercise of powers of the supreme body of judicial community was vested in the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation.

The Council’s work was arranged in sections formed by the representatives of the courts of general jurisdiction, courts of arbitration and military tribunals, and at plenary sessions. The section meetings and plenary sessions were held not less than once a year. In practice, most issues were settled at plenary sessions, which were held twice a year.

Directed by the Second All-Russian Congress, the Council of Judges adopted the Code of Honor of a Judge of the Russian Federation, prescribing the rules of the judges’ behavior both in their professional and off-duty activities. The rules are binding on all judges, whatever office they may hold. The practices of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the Judges Qualification Panels have imparted normative character to the Code.

The adoption of the Code of Honor proves that the Council of Judges was concerned not only with the issues of the judges’ social protection, preservation of their fringe benefits and privileges, but also with the state of the country’s judicial corps and with putting their own house into order.

In pursuance of the Russian Federation President’s Decree No. 2289 of December 25, 2010 (which recommended the Council of Judges to hold the All-Russian Congress of Judges to nominate the candidates for the vacancies of judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation), the Decree of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation of January 20, 1994, recognized the need to hold the Third (Extraordinary) All-Russian Congress of Judges on March 24 – 25, 1994, in Moscow, and the Congress was held at those dates.

The Congress did not elect a new Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, because the term of office of the Council of Judges members elected at the Second All-Russian Congress of Judges had not yet expired at the time of holding the Third Extraordinary Congress.

On March 16, 1995, the Council of Judges dismissed M.M. Bobrov from the office of the Chairman of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation based on his resignation and elected the Russian Federation Supreme Court Judge Yuriy Ivanovich Sidorenko new Chairman of the Council.

The major tasks set before the Council by life itself became the following: preserving the integrity of the federal judicial system and unity of the judges status, separating judicial power from the executive branch by transferring the functions of organizational, resource and personnel support of the courts of general jurisdiction from the Ministry of Justice of Russia to the Judicial Department – a body, fully accountable to the judicial community.

Preserving the functioning courts in the framework of a single federal system became the priority task. The Law “On Judicial System in the Russian Federation” was approved by the Federation Council on December 26, 1996. Thus the years-long efforts of superior courts and the Council of Judges of three convocations were brought to completion.

The Council of Judges made every effort and prevented pulling the judicial system asunder to different locales, thus preserving the integrity of legal space, which now ensures the citizens’ legal protection throughout the whole country, and is a guarantee of the state’s integrity and the judges’ unified legal status.

On October 18, 1995, after time consuming disputes and discussions the Council of Judges adopted a historic resolution about the necessity to create a Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. The judges’ disputes came to a close and practical work aimed at the implementation of that resolution began.

It was brought about by the fact, that the resources allocated from the budget for judicial authorities’ financing were insufficient. Year after year the courts could not receive the budget financing, which ought to be allocated to them according to the law. Justice administration began to almost die out in the country. Local bodies reported that the court activities were almost paralyzed. Some courts actually ceased appointing court hearings and trials, which entailed violations of the citizens’ constitutional rights to relief at law, the investigatory isolation wards were overfilled, and in the conditions of criminal rampage the internal security of the country was thus placed at risk.

The Council of Judges Presidium believed that the existing situation was first and foremost the fault of the then Minister of Justice V. A. Kovalev, who abstained from resolving the problems arising and was not personally involved in practical implementation of the issues repeatedly raised before him by the judicial community.

The Council of Judges of the Russian Federation repeatedly informed the President and Government of the Russian Federation of the existing situation; however the Ministry of Justice failed to comply with the Decrees of the President of the Russian Federation and several orders of the Russian Federation Government aimed at extricating the judicial system from the catastrophic situation.

Considering that the Minister of Justice V.A. Kovalev and his Ministry of Justice were unable to ensure the courts’ normal activity, the judicial community came to a firm conviction that the functions of material, resource and personnel support were to be assigned to the Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. The Council for Judicial Reform under the President of the Russian Federation came to the same conclusion. The relevant Drafts of the RF President’s Decree and the Interim Statute on the Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation were prepared and delivered to the RF President’s Administration.

However, the Ministry of Justice, going against the opinion of the judicial community, obstructed the solution of that problem, striving to reserve the right to dispose of the courts’ financial resources and exert influence on the courts.

The Council of Judges of the Russian Federation could do nothing but give a vote of no confidence to the Minister of Justice V.A. Kovalev and bring the existing situation in the sphere of providing for the activities of the courts of general jurisdiction to the attention of the President of the Russian Federation B.N. Eltsin, Chairman of the Russian Federation Government V.S. Chernomyrdin, Security Council Secretary A.I. Lebed, and ask the President of the Russian Federation to solve the issue of creating the Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

Council of Judges (1996 – 2000)

Pursuant to the Resolution of the Fourth (Extraordinary) All-Russian Congress of Judges of December 05, 1996, 114 persons were elected to the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation (1 – from the Constitutional Court, 89 – from the courts of general jurisdiction, 9 – from military tribunals and 15- from the courts of arbitration).

For operative collegiate consideration of the issues the Council of Judges elected the Chairman, 3 Deputy Chairmen and members of the Russian Federation Council of Judges Presidium comprising 11 persons (1 – from the Constitutional Court, 7 – from the courts of general jurisdiction, 1 – from military tribunals and 2 – from the courts of arbitration), 15 persons in total.

The above mentioned Resolution of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation on creating the Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation was supported by the Fourth (Extraordinary) All-Russian Congress of Judges, too. It discussed and approved the Draft Law “On Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation” prepared by the Council of Judges. Article 31 of the Law read, that Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation provided for the activities of the courts of general jurisdiction and that its head was appointed to the office and dismissed from the office by the Chairman of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, i.e. that that body was fully accountable to and controlled by the judicial community.

The Council of Judges received new legislatively fixed powers. A year later, in December of 1997, the Federal Law “On Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation” was adopted despite its fairly difficult passage through the Chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

In cooperation with the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation the Council proceeded to the creation of the new federal agency. From that moment the Presidium and the Council of Judges began to give particular emphasis to the establishment of the Judicial Department and to organizing its activities.  The Presidium held several sessions and a “round table” for introducing the employees of Judicial Department to their offices and explaining the judicial community bodies’ and Judicial Department’s tasks. Thus, another major step in the direction of strengthening self-regulation and independence of the judicial power was made.

In 1997 the Law “On Court Executors” was also adopted. The idea of creating that service originated in the Council of Judges Presidium already in 1992 and was brought about by the courts’ and judges’ security problems.

The first Draft of that Law was prepared, but then the Council of Judges concentrated on the Draft Law “On Judicial Department” and the Ministry of Justice of Russia assumed responsibility for the Law on Court Executors. Unfortunately, that service has failed to perform its tasks since the adoption of the Law to the present day. After repeated negotiations with the chiefs of the Court Executors Service the Council of Judges came to the conclusion that the service ought to be transferred under the authority of the Judicial Department. The RF Supreme Court supported that idea and submitted the relevant Draft Law for approval of the State Duma as legislative initiative. The Council of Judges was supported on that issue by the Council for the Issues of Justice Improvement under the President of the Russian Federation, the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs and the RF General Prosecutor’s Office. But that problem has not been solved to the present day.

In the period of work of the Council of Judges of that convocation the Federal Constitutional Law “On Judicial System in the Russian Federation” was adopted on December 31, 1996, in the concept advocated by the Council of Judges and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

The main concept in that Law, advocated by the Council of Judges,  was maintaining all courts functioning at that moment (except the statutory ones) as federal courts forming part of a single  judicial system; creating the Judicial Department not in the framework of the executive power, but inside the judicial system; the superior courts’ and the Council of Judges’ powers in the process of forming the judicial system’s budget and their powers in controlling the budget fulfillment; introducing the Judges of the Peace institute. The Council succeeded in upholding all that.

Pursuant to Article 33 of the Federal Constitutional Law “On Judicial System in the Russian Federation” the Council of Judges was vested with the powers for forming the judicial system’s budget. It read that the RF Government was responsible for preparing the Draft Federal Budget in the part of the courts’ financing in cooperation with the superior courts and the Council of Judges, and in the event of differences attached the proposals of the relevant courts and the Council of Judges to the Draft.

The share of the budget resources allocated for the courts’ financing in the current fiscal year may be reduced only with the consent of the All-Russian Congress of Judges or the Council of Judges.

The Council of Judges applied that norm in the struggle against the Ministry of Justice. The situation consisted in the fact, that in April of 1998 the Russian Federation Ministry of Finance informed the courts about the current year cuts of the federal judicial system’s maintenance financing by 26.2 percent without prior agreement of the financing scope with the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, invoking the decision (not even an Enactment) of the Russian Federation Government. After sorting things out for a long time, which did not lead to restoring the judicial system financing in full scope, the Russian Federation Council of Judges Presidium, having identified signs of crime in the actions of the Russian Federation Minister of Justice, resolved to request the Russian Federation General Prosecutor to institute criminal proceedings against the Russian Federation Minister of Justice and other officials guilty of unlawful cuts of the judicial system’s 1998 budget and non- fulfillment of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court’s Enactment No. 23-п of July 17, 1998, based on the signs of crimes contained in Part 2, Art. 286 of the RF Criminal Code (excess of official powers) and Art. 315 (non-compliance with court judgment, court decision, or any other judicial act).

The Council of Judges’ budget control powers were further extended in the Law “On the Russian Federation courts financing”, which was adopted later (in January of 1999).

To provide for higher work efficiency the Council of Judges created nine commissions, which held their sessions as necessary and discussed different issues of providing for judicial activities, preparing the proposals and recommendations to be considered at the Russian Federation Council of Judges plenary sessions:

The following commissions were set up by the Russian Federation Council of Judges’ resolution of April 4, 1997:

  • Finance Commission (Chairman – A.M. Babenko – the Chairman of the Samara Regional Court),
  • Commission for the Issues of Judges’ Status and Legal Status of the Court Apparatus Workers (Chairman – M.G. Averin – the Chairman of the Archangel Regional Court),
  • Commission for the Issues of the Organization-Personnel Work (Chairman – P.P.Serkov – the Chairman of the Ulyanovsk Regional Court),
  • Commission for the Issues of Judicial Practice and Legislature Improvement (Chairman – V.V. Demidov – the Plenum Secretary, the Russian Federation Supreme Court Judge),
  • Commission for Informatization and Automation of Court Work (Chairman – V.N. Ananyev – the Chairman of the Yaroslavl Regional Court),
  • Commission for Relations with the Regional Judicial Community Bodies, State Authorities and Officials, Public Organizations, International Legal Organizations (Chairman – L.N. Maykova – the Chairperson of the Federal Court of Arbitration of the Moscow District).

The first Plenary Session of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation provided for by the Judicial Department under the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation was held on March 30 – April 2, 1999, in Suzdal. The session was held successfully at a high organizational level. The workers of the Judicial Department showed faithful diligence and responsibility.

Council of Judges (2000 – 2004)

The Fifth All-Russian Congress of Judges was held on November 27 – 29. It elected the new Council of Judges consisting of 114 persons.

The Council of Judges of that convocation was governed primarily by the Resolution of the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Judges, which formulated the tasks of the judicial community bodies.

One of the main tasks was strengthening the courts independence and self=regulation with close cooperation of the judicial community bodies with the legislative and executive power bodies both in the center and in the provinces.

The Council of Judges took an active part in the working group for preparation of proposals on improving the laws regulating the activities of courts, the Bar, Public Prosecutors Offices and the judges’ status created by the order of the Russian Federation President (the Group Head – Deputy Head of The Russian Federation President’s Administration – D.N. Kozak).

A broad public discussion was launched, which the judges, other lawyers, politicians, scientists and journalists took part in. The main disputes concerned the status of judges and new draft laws and proposals purporting to deprive the judges of something or limit them in some way. Owing to the Council’s uncompromising struggle for the judicial community’s interests it became possible to avoid many mistakes.

One of the major issues of the Council’s activities in that period of time was ensuring the implementation of the principles of public character and openness of justice, also through the courts cooperation with mass media. For that purpose the Permanent Commission for Relations with Mass Media was set up (Chairperson – L.N. Maykova).

The judicial system found itself in the information blockade, which deprived it of the opportunity to publicly defend its interests, made it vulnerable and to a certain extent dependent on the interests of both certain social groups and concrete individuals, which in the final result runs contrary to the interests of society and undermines the public’s trust in the judicial power and justice.

To overcome the above mentioned negative phenomena the Council of Judges adopted the Concept of the Judicial System Information Policy, developed recommendations for the settlement of conflicts between judicial bodies and mass media related to the protection of the judges’ honor and dignity.

The All-Russian Contest for the best mass media material about the activities of courts and judges was held, the judicial community’s All-Russian magazine “Sudya” (“The Judge”) was set up, the Council of Judges’ address to the Russian Federation President V.V. Putin with a request to allocate television air time was prepared, which was not left unnoticed. The issues of the courts financing, the judges’ and court personnel’s labor remuneration dealt with by the Council of Judges’ Finance Commission have always stayed in the  field of vision.

The Council of judges approved Standard Internal Regulations of the courts and a list of diseases preventing appointment to the office of a judge. It gave explanations on the complicated and disputable issues of the judge’s status application, developed the Instruction on the order of appointment and payment of monthly life-long allowance to the judges, prepared a Draft Code of Judges Ethics and Draft Rules of Procedure of the All-Russian Congress of Judges and the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation.

Attentive attitude to people and personnel policy are major areas of the Council of Judges’ activities. The Council passed several resolutions on personnel issues, containing recommendations to the Judicial Department, personnel services and bodies of state power.

Of special note is the fact, that Federal Law No. 30 – ФЗ “On Judicial Community Bodies in the Russian Federation” of March 14, 2002, was adopted in the period of operation of the Council of Judges of that convocation. Its history is as follows: the initial draft was prepared by the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, discussed at the Fourth All-Russian Congress of Judges, submitted to the State Duma by the Russian Federation Supreme Court and the Russian Federation Superior Court of Arbitration as legislative initiative and adopted in first reading in 1977, and then put on the shelf for several years.

In 2002 the President’s Administration joined in the work on the Draft. It underwent substantial changes. The Law began to regulate the issues that were earlier settled by the judges themselves, including the issues of the rules of procedure. The decisions on the judicial community bodies representation rates, their quantitative composition, calling regularity, voting form (by a show of hands or secret ballot) and other issues were taken by the Deputies instead of the judges; the process of state regulation of the bodies of judicial community’s self-government, which generally speaking, are public organizations, commenced.

The Council of Judges in that membership held 9 plenary sessions of the Council of Judges and 16 sessions of its Presidium. In that period of time the Council of Judges and its Presidium passed 137 resolutions on different issues dealing with the life of the judicial community and judicial system.

This brief enumeration of some figures gives an understanding of the scope of work performed by the members of the Council of Judges, who had been elected by the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Judges and in whom their colleagues vested their confidence, and about the load they had to carry besides participation in court proceedings.

Council of Judges (2004– 2008)

At the Sixth All-Russian Congress of Judges held on November 30 – December 2, 2004, the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council of Judges Yu. I. Sidorenko noted in his report:  “In the course of the judicial reform a big scope of work has been performed, resulting in building in Russia of a simple system of courts understandable to the public, in the formation of a capable judicial corps comprising the most qualified lawyers. Under these conditions it is necessary to systematically resolve the issues of further development and perfection of the judicial system and judicial procedures and appropriate organizational, and first of all personnel and financial, support of judicial activities”.

At the present time the Council consists of 132 representatives of courts of all types and levels. According to the Council of Judges Rules of Procedure adopted by the Sixth All-Russian Congress of Judges, the Council elected the Presidium of the Council of Judges consisting of 17 persons (the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council of Judges, his three Deputies and 13 Presidium members).

The Sixth All-Russian Congress of Judges resolved: the efforts of the judicial community bodies must be aimed at: substantial improvement of the court activities organizational support, strengthening the judges’ independence guarantees, including the measures of their legal protection, material and social security, better material and social protection of the court apparatus personnel, raising the role of judicial community and its bodies in preventing the judges corruption, taking more resolute measures to clear the judicial corps of persons not deserving the high title of the Russian Judge, taking additional measures to strengthen the courts’ protection, the judges’ and their families’ security, raising the level of the judicial system’s cooperation with mass media and imparting systematic and scientifically substantiated character to that work.

In 4 years the Council prepared 9 draft laws as legislative initiatives and expressed its opinions on 71 draft laws.

In the reporting period there were held 8 Plenary Sessions of the Russian Federation Council of Judges, 24 sessions of the Presidium, 2 seminars – conferences of Chairmen of the Councils of Judges of the Russian Federation Subjects, 2 seminars – conferences of Chairmen of the Councils of Judges and heads of Divisions (Sections) of the Judicial Department in the Volga Federal District and Siberian Federal District.

182 resolutions of the Council and its Presidium were passed.

The Council worked in close cooperation with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, Superior Court of Arbitration of the Russian Federation and Judicial Department.

The Council of judges concentrated its attention on the issues of strengthening the status of judges and court apparatus personnel. In particular, the Council of Judges and Presidium of the Council of Judges considered the issues of improving labor remuneration of the court apparatus personnel and workers of the Judicial Department system, of legislative formalization of the issues of psychological support of judicial activities, of the development of scientifically substantiated judges’  and court personnel workload rates, of reducing the Federal Courts judges appointment time, of the order of allocating housing to the judges in need of better housing conditions, of the courts informatization progress, of the concept of ensuring the federal courts of general jurisdiction security by technical security systems and means, of the forms of the judges response to the citizens’ and officials’ applications on the cases in court proceedings, of organizing medical service and sanatorium-health resort treatment of judges and their families, of financial control over the federal budget resources allocated for financing the Russian Federation courts, etc.

The unique State Computerized System “Justice” was created, uniting all courts of general jurisdiction and the Judicial Department system in a single information space. The Council concurred with the judicial Department in working out and approving the Recommendations on Methods of forming and laying out information about the activities of courts of general jurisdiction in the open access worldwide Internet network at the court’s official website.

The Council of Judges together with the Judicial Department worked out the Court Apparatus Personnel Behavior Rules recommended as regulatory document which were approved on April 27, 2006.

This is a brief description of the big scope of work performed by the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation in 2004 – 2008.



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