New legislation on courts

Jun 4, 2014
Today the amendments to the federal constitutional law “On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation” which have been promptly adopted by the State Duma and the Council of Federation were signed into law. They establish that the Constitutional Court may act in the presence of two thirds of the overall number of judges instead of the current rule of three quarters. Thus, the presence of 13 judges instead of 15 would be sufficient. The Court may keep session whenever there is the quorum of two thirds of the number of judges currently in office, but not of their constitutional number which comes to 19 persons.  Thus, the  minimal threshold for keeping a session may be 9 persons instead of 13 which are required at present. For adopting a decision a simple majority of judges who are present in the session will be required, and only for adopting a decision on the interpretation of the Constitution two thirds of the current composition of the court is required,  and not from their constitutionally established number as is the case at present.
 
Besides, the law imposes a time limit for citizens and organisations applying to the Constitutional Court with regard of the violation of their constitutional rights and freedoms. This may be done within a year after the consideration of their cases in court, where the contested provision of the law was applied. There was no restriction like this before.
 
Apart from this, the law implements the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 6 December 2013 relating to the implementation of ECHR decisions, which are contrary to the position of the Constitutional Court. In that judgment the Constitutional Court decided that only itself may resolve the issue of application of legislative rules which impede the execution of ECHR judgment but were earlier deemed to be conformant to the Constitution. According to a general rule, if the Constitutional Court have already opined on a particular provision of law, the Court will not consider it again, but for decisions of the ECHR the new law makes an exception: the ordinary court which must reconsider the case because of a ECHR decision may in the case of its collission with the opinion of the Constitutional Court have a new recourse to the latter. This will be possible if the ordinary court decides that the issue of application of the law in question may be resolved only if its constitutionality is reconfirmed.
 
From now on the Constitutional Court may in a simplified procedure (without hearings) adopt decisions regarding the destiny of any challenged normative act or its particular provisions, if the Court comes to the conclusion that the application of its prior legal positions is enough for deciding the issue. This novelty is interesting in two respects: 1) for the first time the statutory law employs the notion of “legal position” of the Constitutional Court which is essentially a Russian place-holder for “precedent”  and “ratio decidendi”, and 2) thereby the number of cases which may be resolved by way of analogy is significantly expanded.
 
Besides, today new laws on commercial (arbitrazh) courts have been signed. Their content have been already explained in 4 March news release from “The Institute of Precedent” (see more here). The texts of the laws may be read following the links here and here. They have not undergone significant changes as compared to the drafts introduced into Parliament.