#7 - JRL 7231
June 19, 2003
JUDGES HELP EXPROPRIATE PROPERTY
By Yekaterina Zapodinskaya
Yesterday at a meeting of chairpersons of judiciary counsels of the subjects of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Superior Arbitration Court (SAC) Veniamin Yakovlev revealed that some of his colleagues through their verdicts help unscrupulous plaintiffs come into possession of somebody else's property. He had compiled "for purposes of monitoring a list of names of such judges".
Echoing Vyacheslav Lebedev, head of the Supreme Court, who addressed the same audience last Monday (Kommersant reported on it on June 17), Chairman of the SAC Veniamin Yakovlev admitted that purity of the judiciary ranks remained one of the acutest problems:
"Corruption is capable of destroying justice; it is necessary to build a barrier against it. And perhaps the most effective method of prevention of corruption is openness of courts to [scrutiny of] people and mass media.
"Speaking about roots of court corruption, Mr. Yakovlev named three basic methods of effecting expropriation of somebody else's property in this country: illegal bankruptcy, illegal creation by a JSC of management structures or bodies, and illegal tampering to guarantee favorable outcome on a filed claim.
"Illegal tampering is a direct cause of corruption of the judiciary," stressed head of the SAC. "Corrupt decisions can effectively and completely paralyze activity of any well-functioning business enterprise. I've already marked down by name some judges indulging in this sort of practice. We're going to monitor their cases and bring criminal charges if necessary."
Veniamin Yakovlev said that three new appeal/arbitration courts should be opened this year: in the city of Moscow, in the Moscow region, and in St. Petersburg. Currently, appeal collegiums of Russian regional courts and judges of the first instance regional courts share both office buildings and higher-up management, which does not promote the spirit of subjectivity. It is planned to launch throughout the country some 20 such arbitration courts with 10 branches in remote districts.
Kommersant asked Mr. Yakovlev why the Western corruption-deterring system of computerized [random] allocation of cases to judges has been appropriated by none of the arbitration courts, the Superior court included. "In our system, a case usually ends up where it ends up by itself, depending on workload and specialization of judges." Nevertheless, the judges who we could talk to yesterday believe that the computerized system would not come amiss: "The situation now is: every two regular judges have above them a boss judge who is the one doing case distribution among them, and this affects the outcome."