Veniamin Yakovlev, former Chairman of the Supreme Commercial Court. Speaking to the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation. May  2013

May 1, 2013

Court system is unified, and the law-application must be unified. If court system does not ensure the unity of law-application, it does not ensure in essence the pervasion of law into life. What is law? Law is certainty. And the certainty is achieved by the unity of judicial practice.

Today we do not have the unity of judicial law-application, but we do not nowadays have even general approaches as to how to achieve the unity of law-application. I think that it is a very serious problem, and from its solution also depends the quality of the dispensation of justice.

Certainly, we worked out some ways of ensuring the unity of law-application. I believe that the best of them is a joint decree of the Supreme and the Supreme Commercial courts.

We have, on second thought, a mechanism for the unity of law-application with regard to one law only. Which one? The Constitution, because there is the Constitutional Court, a single one. But with regard to other laws (the Civil Code, Tax Code, Code of Administrative Offences and so forth) we lack such structure, such mechanism, except joint decrees. But it’s needed.

We once had the Council for the Improvement of Justice attached at the President [of Russia] which was headed by the honourable Professor Vladimir Aleksandrovich Tumanov. Vladimir Aleksandrovich died, and the Council ceased to exist. Why? I do not understand why. This Council brought together representatives of all courts, first of all. Secondly, it brought together all those who take part in the dispensation of justice, from whom the quality of justice depends. I mean advocates, notaries, procurators, investigators and so forth.

 I think it would not be bad if we put the question before the President on the necessity to renew the activity of this Council. But if we are not successful in attaching it to the President, then at least the highest courts can themselves create such a council, I mean, not composed of judges only. And, of course, to turn it without fail into an area for discussing our common problems: the very same unity of the law-application, the very same problem of precedent (what is precedent, within which limits  it is admissible, what is precedent in the precedent-based or in continental system of law, in the statutory system of law, whether it is something common or they are somewhat different things)  and so on. We should necessarily determine our position not only theoretically, but also practically. We must have unity in the judicial system on these problems.

Judge: Yakovlev Veniamin