Establishing of a Classic Public Organization of Judges will Expand the Horizons of Our Opportunities

Dear Yuri Ivanovich,

In this issue of the magazine we planned to publish an article by a member of our editorial board, judge of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and a member of the Presidium of the Council of judges Mikhail Ivanovich Kleandrov. In that article he proposed to reform Russia's judicial community,in particular, he argued that judges association should be with voluntary membership, and that this association should not have any state functions. For that matterwe thought that there would be the tumultuous dispute around this publication and you, as Chairman of the Council of Judges of Russia, would take part in it and will defend another point of view. We made a mistake. Shortly before the edition of this issue of the magazine, we learned that there was a meeting of the initiative group of judges, which adopted the decision on the establishment of the Russian Association of Judges. And its members had been already approved, the governing body which is headed by you, the Central Council had, been elected, on April 17. What does this mean? The necessity to reform the community of judges has matured, and especially in the Council of Judges itself?

 

I would put the question differently. The necessity has matured, but not only not in the field of the reforming, but in the sphere of the evolutionary development. I absolutely agree with Mikhail Ivanovich that Russian organization of judges, based on the principle of voluntary membership, is really needed. This idea has long been in the air, and the article of Mikhail Ivanovich is an extra proof to it. The time goes on, the life changes, new professional requests and new challenges raise, that all require new structures and new methods, including organizational. But it is no need to break and destroy those bodies of the judicial community, which have developed and effectively perform their functions. Mikhail Ivanovich, as a long-standing and active member of the Presidium of the Council of judges, certainly would not deny that his work in the Council, and the work of his colleagues had been very productive and contributed to the improvement and strengthening of the judicial system of the country. What has been achieved by the Council of Judges during the years of its existence undoubtedly inspires respect.

 

The Council of Judges is effective, its authority is growing. A reasonable question is why is it necessary to create new organization?

 

I will call just some reasons. The Council of Judges, in the organizational form in which it exists, cannot be called a classical public organization. It is unique in its own way, because it combines social and public functions. Yes, it is a body of the judicial community, which is formed and acts on the democratic principles. It certainly has features of social organization, such as the election of governing bodies, collegiality, publicity, openness. A number of key tasks of the Council of Judges also makes it similar to a public association, such as assistance in improving of the judicial system, protection of rights and interests of judges, strengthening of their independence and the influence of the judicial authority.

But the term "public organization" does not apply to it within the meaning that is assigned to it in the Law "On Public Associations". The Council unifies all judges of Russia without exception, but not only those who have voluntarily expressed their intention to become a member. Moreover, it performs a number of state functions, including the spending of budgetary funds. And, accordingly, such function of the Council of judges, as participation in organizational, staffing and resource ensuring of judicial activities, which is assigned in the law on the bodies of the judicial community, does not correspond to the aims of public organization.

 

What is wrong with it?

 

Nothing. Moreover, the Council of Judges performs its functions very effectively. As it is suggested by some of our colleagues, to deprive the Council of such functions would be unreasonable and irrational. At the same time the creation of classic social organization of judges will expand the horizons of our possibilities. It will allow us to raise to a new level the interaction with other professional communities and public organizations, including organizations for human rights, media, that, as we expect, will have a positive impact on strengthening the credibility of the judicial system.

Moreover, we can become the subject of international relations, to enter into international judicial associations, strengthen international cooperation. That will give a possibility to adequately and truly represent our judicial system to the world and foreign colleagues.

 

Is the International Judicial Association ready to cooperate with the Russian public organization?

 

Of course, we have long been preparing to replenish its ranks. We invited representatives of the International Association of judges in Russia, participated in their annual conferences. So the preparatory work for the adhering to the international judicial community is conducted actively. But so far the organizational character of our Council of Judges does not completely correspond to the requirements that are applied to the members of this International Association. We perfectly understood that we did not fit into their format. And although they treated with understanding our specificity and were ready to accept the Association of Russian judges in their association, we have found ourselves that this was wrong. We would like to be an equal member of the international community, rather than an exception to the general rules. And as the international organization of judges consists of public unions, we also need such a union.

 

Why the need for the creation of the Russian Association of Judges (RAJ) has become apparent only now, instead of, say, five or ten years ago?

 

Everything is good in its season. Perhaps, the idea was to mature, acquire masses. I can say you that five years ago, at the Council's meeting we proposed something similar, but then judges did not show enthusiasm. Strictly, we invited all who wishes to write an application to join a new public organization. Reason: If there is a sufficient number of volunteers, we begin to put the idea into practice. Only two people have expressed such a desire.

 

Not enough.

 

Not enough.

 

What happened in the five years that the number of people willing to create a new organization has hugely increased?

 

The Council meetings twice a year, and during its meetings should have time to consider the huge number of issues, among which are such voluminous and complex, as the annual report of the Director-General of the Judicial Department, budget, staffing, and many other problems. With such a load, it is not surprising that the free spirit of public organization, "veche" spirit of the Council of Judges is largely lost. During all these years, the Council is increasingly became more state-oriented. And this process will continue and, hence, the Council of Judges will have more powers of self-government of judges. This is normal and is fully consistent with the challenges faced. Now the Council not only organizes the qualification boards of judges, but also the examination boards. The range of issues on which the Council adopts the mandatory provisions expands, such as the formation of the list of diseases that prevent the appointment to the position of judge.

And new powers and new responsibilities require time and effort, so it is simply not enough time to do many other important things.

 

What things, per example?

 

We are confident that much more time should be given to issues of social protection of judges. It is necessary to pay more attention to work with veterans. We believe that RAJ would be able to partially fulfill the functions of the Union of judges. Moreover, it is necessary to withdraw to a new level horizontal interaction of judges not only with organizations that unite lawyers, but also with other structures of the civil society, to establish constructive cooperation with them and expand the space of professional dialogue.

 

That is, RAJ will make the Corporation of judges, which is often accused of insularity, significantly more open?

 

Of course. We believe that discussion area, organized by the Russian Association of Judges, will be permanent, that will allow to quickly discuss all the pressing problems, and this in turn would facilitate the adoption of optimum decisions.

 

Probably, it is impossible to strictly delineate the roles of the Council of Judges and of the Russian Association of Judges, many of them will overlap or be duplicated. Accordingly, there will be a competition between both organizations. Aren't you afraid that it would cause conflicts within the judicial community?

 

We have no reasons and motives for a such competition. In other words, we have nothing to share: both the Council and the RAJ, as it were, look in one direction and strive for common goals. We are allies a-priory, that means that the growing of forces and possibilities for the development of the judicial system are necessary for all Russian judges, for the whole community. Moreover, the intention to enter into a new organization is expressed by many members of the Council of Judges. It is unlikely that they will compete with themselves, anyway I can not imagine such a "split personality".

 

Still, is it possible that the Council of Judges itself will share its authorities with the Russian Association of Judges? In the part where the Council performs just public functions.

 

No. I underline once again: the Council of Judges manages all its powers. We will surely interact, and to implement joint projects, to complement each other, especially in such important and Holy affaire as the strengthening of independence of judges. It may be easier to undertake some activities within the frame of the Council of Judges, and some in the frame of the RAJ, which is a structure more free and less constrained by restrictions, that have the Council.

Creation of the RAJ caused mixed reactions of your peers colleagues from the arbitration court system. They have the impression that you are creating the public association of judges of the courts of general jurisdiction.

It's a wrong impression. Frankly, such a reaction surprised me, because we immediately explained: the Association will unify all judges who wish to enter into it. I believe that the creation of multiple judicial public associations with approximately the same objectives means the dispersion of force. What for? If the created organization will be more voluminous and will consolidate more jurisdictions, it will become stronger and more powerful. So, we immediately said that doors in RAJ are open to all.

 

Probably, such a false impression of your colleagues from arbitration courts arose because they have been not invited to the constituent Assembly on April 17.

 

Yes, I understand it all. But I categorically reject the accusations of clannishness and that preparations for our meeting were held in the strictest secrecy. It would be equally stupid as impossible. We have notified about our proposals the courts and councils of judges of 48 regions, what kind of clannishness is there, and far less secrecy? Just, it always necessary to start somewhere, take the first step. And only then address concrete proposals to the large judicial public. That is, to offer to the judicial community not ghostly dreams or ambitions, but to propose focused action plan and clear concept of the future organization.

 

First private initiative of several judges arose, and we discussed it in a very narrow circle. Then the circle expanded, but just enough to be able to make a decision on whether to create a new organization or not. 48 courts of the Russian Federation held meetings and proposed their delegates for the first session. But even at that moment, we were not sure that the enlarged meeting will end with the adoption of a decision on the establishment of RAJ. Of course, it is good that our meeting was held so constructively and that all 49 delegates supported our idea. Now of course we will propose to everybody to participate in further discussions on the fate of the RAJ and its plans and activities. We are open for cooperation and will be glad if the new organization will unite as many judges as possible.

Still, by what criteria have you selected the participants of the first meeting?

We have invited the judges from the most close to Moscow regions. Now we send letters to more distant regions of the Russian Federation, as well as to arbitration courts and the Constitutional Court.

 

I wish to recall that the initiative to establish a Council of Judges also came from the courts of general jurisdiction. And this did not prevent the further unification of all the judges in the Council of Judges of Russia. I hope this time it will be possible to create an organization of all judges. And then the Association of Judges of the Commonwealth of independent States. We have already received relevant proposals from Belarus, Kazakhstan and other States. They want to communicate with us, and we are interested too in their experiences, opinions, suggestions.

A similar initiative was voiced repeatedly by representatives of arbitration court system .

And not only was voiced. We can say that the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation undertook a very specific actions, namely carried out business correspondence with the Chairs of the high courts of CIS countries on the establishment of the Association of Judges of Commonwealth. With the difference that this Association should act under the authority of the Supreme Commercial, economic and trade  courts. And that is not entirely clear to me. If we create an organization which members can be all acting and retired judges, why it should be led only by one judicial jurisdiction?

 

Did you ask this question to your colleagues from the arbitration court system?

 

I would have asked, but we were not invited at these meetings  — neither the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation nor the Council of Judges. I say that, believe me, without any grudges. Probably, colleagues from the arbitration system wanted to explore deeper these issues and then invite us. But it is no reason to be mad at us, because in organization created by us there will be full equality of all its members, regardless of branch of the judicial system they represent. And certainly will not be so, that a jurisdiction takes precedence, and the rest are adjusted in its channel.

 

We are in favor of mutual respect, equality, that primarily focus on our common challenges and common objectives.

 

But you do not steel dive in the details of activities of the new organization?

 

Creating the Council of Judges, we could not imagine how it will act, what powers and structure it will have. It was a pure individual initiative of judges. But we clearly understand one thing: the main thing is to start. Don't wait by the sea for the weather and not be afraid to make the first move. We knew that judges need a tribune that their voice should be heard, that they need a body that would represent their interests and protecting professional rights. And, as you can see, this initiative immediately began to develop in the right direction.

 

Wish the same to the Russian Association of Judges.

 

Everything will depend on us. We have a desire, experience too. I think the RAJ has good prospects.

 

Thank you.

Published in the periodical “The Judge”, June 2012 

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