Staunton, Sept. 10 – The Russian Federation, like the Soviet Union before it, decides on the number of judges in a particular location on the basis of population rather than on the basis of the number of cases brought before the courts, a situation that ignores critical differences, overloads courts in some jurisdictions and means those in others don’t have enough to do.
That is just one of the problems that plague the situation of judges in Russia today and mean that those who are overloaded with work often can’t dispense justice even when they are committed to doing so, Sima Edizdzhi, a judge who retired after 38 years of service in the Adygey Republic (mk.ru/social/2021/09/09/sudy-v-rossii-zadokhnulis-ot-chrezmernoy-nagruzki.html).
If judges are to do their job properly, she continues, they must do more than simply sit in court and listen to the two sides. They must familiarize themselves with the case and with all laws and decisions of higher courts that may affect the outcome of a trial. And they must beware of a real problem: the use of the courts by other institutions to prevent justice from being done.
In her experience, Edidzhi says, educational administrations who have the right to make decisions governing what they do often refuse to do so and instead go to court. Not only does that overload the courts, it has the effect of blocking citizens from justice. The education bureaucracy has lots of lawyers, and they can prevent parents from getting a fair hearing.
The entire approach to the training, appointment, and movement of judges in Russian courts needs to be revised so that those who become judges know what they should do, those selecting them will put the right people and the right number where there are lots of cases, and judges should be moved according to transparent rules rather than in some arbitrary fashion.
Many of the issues the retired judge raises may seem small, but in fact, unless they are addressed, justice won’t be meted out in Russian courtrooms even if what appear to be larger issues are tackled. These “minutiae” have the potential to undercut even the best reforms those at the top of the system come up with.