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Assessing the Courts in Russia: Parameters of Progress under Putin


Peter H. Solomon


The Soviet legacy included courts that were dependent and weak, and whose reform had only just begun. The Yeltsin era witnessed considerable progress in making judges more independent and powerful, but the efforts were seriously constrained by budgetary shortcomings and paralysis in the legislative approval of needed procedural changes. As we shall see, the Putin administration overcame both of these obstacles and at the same time began addressing the thorny question of how to make courts and judges accountable without undue harm to their independence. It also started to address the scepticism about the courts among a significant part of the public, through efforts to improve media coverage, make information about courts more available, and make courts user friendly. While praiseworthy and bound to improve the reality and the perception of the administration of justice overall, these initiatives did not end attempts to exert influence on judges and case outcomes by powerful people (in the public and private sectors) or the mechanisms that facilitated their efforts. This essay begins by identifying criteria for assessing the quality of the administration of justice in any country, including in the post-soviet world and suggesting specific markers (usually qualitative) connected to each of the criteria developed above. Then, the essay provides an account of relevant policy initiatives in judicial reform undertaken first under Yeltsin and then in the Putin years. The essay goes to provide an assessment of the state of the courts in the Russian federation in 2007 in the light of the criteria and markers supplied in the first section. It concludes with a look to the future, and the identification of crucial markers of change for the post-Putin era.

How to Cite: Solomon, P.H., 2008. Assessing the Courts in Russia: Parameters of Progress under Putin. International Journal for Court Administration, 1(2), pp.26–32. DOI:
Published on 15 Oct 2008.
Peer Reviewed


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