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Russia: Tighter Control of Court System Proposed

(May 22, 2009) On May 8, 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed an amendment to the Federal Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, to change the procedure for selection of the country's Chief Justice and two Vice-Chairpersons of the Court. At present, 19 members of the Court, who are nominated by the President and approved by the upper chamber of the legislature, select the Court's chairperson and his deputies among themselves for a three-year term, with unlimited possibility of reelection. The amendment would repeal this right of the justices and provide for the right of the President to appoint the Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen of the Constitutional Court for a six-year term with a possibility of reappointment or dismissal. The proposal was strongly supported by the pro-government parliamentary majority; however, some members of the Constitutional Court stated that “this is a clear decrease in the level of democracy and judicial independence.” (Former Judge Slams Medvedev's Plans to Appoint Constitutional Court Head, Johnson's Russia List, May 12, 2009, No. 88, Item 6, available at Final approval of this bill is scheduled for May 22, 2009.

At the same time, another proposed amendment provides for changes in the appointment of judges for the courts of general jurisdiction. That amendment would eliminate the three-year probation period for judges and make their initial appointment permanent. However, it also would terminate the life-tenure appointment of judges and introduce mandatory retirement for the judges when they reach 70 years of age. (Marina Ozerova, Femida Lishitsa Golosa [Femida Will Lose Its Voice], Moskovskii Komsomolets, May 11, 2009, available at