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Russia: Chief Justice Insists on Obligatory Role of Judicial Precedents

(June 29, 2010) On May 18, 2010, in a speech at the annual meeting of the Council of Judges, Russia's highest professional body for the country's judges, the Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court, Viacheslav Lebedev, stated that judges of all lower courts must obey the documents issued by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and use them as mandatory instructions, not as simple guidelines.

In addition to rulings in individual cases, the Supreme Court of Russia periodically issues resolutions on the application of particular laws and other legal acts by the courts and surveys of judicial practice. The surveys analyze the decisions of lower courts on particular topics in order to secure uniformity in court rulings. Traditionally, judges did not consider these decisions to be obligatory, because Russia does not belong to the common law system, and decisions issued by the courts do not have precedential value. As a rule, attorneys did not cite these documents in their briefs, and judges were not required to follow them. Now, the Supreme Court is going to change this practice and will insist on usage of its rulings by judges. It appears that the Council of Judges will support the new policy through monitoring how rulings of lower court judges follow the Supreme Court's resolutions and surveys. (Vladislav Kulikov, Tainaia Kantseliariia Pod Zapretom [Secret Chancellery Is Banned] [in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA (May 19, 2010),