Anything humanistic is not alien the judge

The reportage from the Plenary meeting of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation “Judges wish monetization and bonuses”, published by “Parliament Newspaper” (№ 95, week 18th-25th of July, 2007), was read by the Chairman of this corporative body, judge of the Supreme Court of the Russia Federation. He read it very carefully, with a pencil in head. The spaces between newspaper columns were filled with "tick" and other marks. The high-ranked reader laid down objections to journalistic treatment of processes within “third power”. The author of the material was invited to the office of the corporation.

First of all, Yuri Ivanovich said that he was spirited absolutely philosophical:

- Every judge knows different people have different views to any facts and circumstances. The state prosecutor in a criminal case traces one, and the defendant is quite the opposite, although they both see the same thing. You've seen our meeting as you have written. Your fell on something what you did not like, something was taken in the wrong way, something you noticed does not exist, this also happens. But this is your view from the hall. Some of your point of views I share, other I don’t.

The title usually expresses the main idea of the publication. Yuri Sidorenko has strongly disagreed with the title of this article:

- If you look at the chronology of the legislation, you will find out that by the year 2000 we were not speaking about the benefits, moreover we stopped to discuss increasing of the salary. Remuneration of judges was increased several times. Now it is sufficient by all measures. We always want more, but looking for better subsistent not only to judges, but to any normal person.

The President, in accordance with two federal laws, provided benefits to the judiciary. The Law of the Russian Federation «Regarding the status of Judges in the Russian Federation», adopted in 1992 provided some of them. At that time salaries have been so low that experts were leaving masse, the judiciary was collapsing.

It was not so much bonuses as a disguised compensation for low salaies, because the state could not pay high salaries. In 1996 the Federal Law “Regarding additional guarantees of social protection of judges and court personnel of the Russian Federation" came into force. Since that time, we haven’t received any additional benefits. Moreover, when the state began the process of liquidation of benefits for certain categories it concerned judges, we did not object. We didn’t insist on conservation of payment of utility services, free uniforms, free travel passage. We didn’t object.

We just told the government: if you divest judges and staff of part of bonuses, you should compensate this by increasing of salaries, especially as there is a legislation what protects not only judges, but all our system. And today we are talking about increasing of salary to the court personnel, but not to judges. We have requested the executive power several times, but we still haven’t received any feedback. And the problem is very acute. Salary of a staff is 6-7 thousand of rubles. And the requirements for recruitment are still strict: need higher education, decency. But what a graduate of the law department will work with us for the money, which is impossible to live?

The leader of the corporation called to make a point of the issue of appointment and reappointment of judges:

- It is not the first time when the Council discusses this problem. We believe that the terms of the appointment are too long. The firs steps of the procedure - the competitive selection, qualifying exam, checking security services - are understandable and justified. Then the applicant submits documents to the particular judgeship and then passes a competitive selection again. And the Supreme Court checks once again whether all done correctly. Finally, documents are handed over to the Presidential Administration, and here the problems begin: the question hangs for 9-10 months. We understand that probably a lot of time spent on purely bureaucratic procedure. The President’s decree is prepared carefully; each document must collect 50 signatures. Sometimes, by one decree appoints at once 200 people. The document moves the chain of command, and then suddenly, before the last visa, they find out that one person can’t be appointed to the judgeship because of some circumstances, which prevent his appointment. And the whole list is sent to run again.

However, this is just an assumption. Everything that happens with documents in the Office of the President – is a "black box" for us. Now imagine a state judge whose term of office ends, and he expects a reassignment. This is just a nerve-racking! And how to shape other people's destiny, when your own is suspended? If the reassignment of the head of the court delayed, the team starts to ferment. This year, hundreds of chairmen of general will expect a reassignment. In case of delays the whole system will be fermented. And the main point is that in such a period is very easy to influence on the work of judges.

We understand that the President's Administration may enter any complaints requiring further verification. And we offer ourselves: if the candidate have a complaint, please refuse him. What we ask is only make the procedure clear and regulated.

The Chairman of the Council of Judges has explained why during the plenary meeting some “selfish” (in his words) issues occurred:

- Many people are weak on "selfish" issues. And the judges are not an exception. And this year problems with treatment occurred because of changing of insurance company. Service became worse, people started to complain. Our representative body just gave a feedback to requests from judges. I understand that against the common life claims of my colleagues might seem excessive. But you also need to understand that judges now have a very high status and each of them feels very important person. Probably this is the main achievement of the judicial reform.

The high status of judges was proclaimed in the 1992. But salaries in the system still remained low, buildings of justice were poor. And judges a long time were harassed. But in recent years, things have changed a lot. And today judges are sincerely indignant when they face a bad attitude.

I support the high aspirations of the corporation, because I’m sure: only self-respecting person is able to d respect other people.

In fact, the problem of health care for us is not the main one. In a few months, the cooperation with the insurance company will be adjusted, the emotions calm down.

In another “selfish” issue, which was much discussed during the plenary meting of Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, concerning housing of judges, Yuri Sidorenko offered the following explanation:

- According to the law on the status of judges since the 1992 there is a certain order of housing of judges. First, apartments were provided from the housing stock of local authorities, and then the costs were recovered from the federal budget. But life went on. A judge started a family, and he claimed to improve housing conditions. Local authorities usually met his needs. And as a result during the time of serving, a judge could receive housing in private property several times. And that was already against the law. When the monetization of benefits started, the Government said: let's put things in order in this sphere. They started to write a new law. But regions didn’t like the mechanism offered by the Government. There were objections from the higher courts and the judicial community. And the situation seems to be stuck. Formally, the old federal program is still available, and money for housing in the federal budget are planned. But we are not able to realize these funds because there is no legally prescribed order.

The opinion of the leader of judiciary about other financial points is following:

- Salaries of judges have been increased already. Increase is provided for more differentiated pay for seniority, qualification (our profession has a wide range – six qualifying classes pointed), secrecy, complexity. All the judges have same powers, but knowledge and experience are different, what is considered. But there is nothing special about this system; every civil servant receives such increase according to the law on civil servants.

There is also another form of additional incentive. Suppose that, there are 10 judges in stuff of district court. But really there are 6 of them. Nevertheless, they are obliged to consider as many cases as it is. We can’t refuse anyone the right to judicial protection because of extremely high caseload. Payroll in the federal courts charged according to the staffing and doesn’t decrease if the staffing is not filled. These savings at the end of the year are distributed among the judges in the form of bonuses. And at the institute of magistrate courts money allocated to each district separately. If there is no judge in the district - there is no money. This is unfair. The caseload of the magistrate is high, and if he has worked for two, and then must receive respectively.

One arbitrator has said in the plenary meeting that we had big salary and there were surplus, which should be invested. Probably he has such a problem. The Council of Judges did not include this issue on the agenda. I do not have such a problem in my family. Unspent money I give to my wife for a deposit, and they lie there quietly until there is a need in them.

Talking about the stages of the corporation, its leader underlined that the Council of Judges was established in order to promote judicial reform, a concept of which was developed in the early 1990’s. And now the new decade is ending, and aspects are still unclear. Yuri Sidorenko listed several bills introduced by the Supreme Court in the State Duma, including the bill about the Supreme Court, general courts, administrative courts, which remained without movement for many years, or, at best, considered only the first reading.


Tatiana Borovik

Published in the “Parliament Newspaper” № 99-101 /2167-2169/ at August 9, 2007


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