In a recent interview, the Chairman of the Russian Supreme Commercial Court, Anton Ivanov, has expressed a view in support of the bill “On Making Amendments to Specific Legislative Acts to Improve Reconciliation Procedures” (the “Bill”) submitted to the State Duma in summer 2012. 

The Russian Law on Mediation adopted in early 2011 has not been effectively applied to date, which apparently was one of the principal reasons for the proposal of the Bill. 

The Bill seeks to expand litigants’ options to reach amicable settlement by introducing, in addition to the existing mediation procedure, other kinds of settlement procedures:  formal negotiations and “court reconciliation”. 

The latter procedure is particularly interesting as it is the result of a recently announced initiative of the Supreme Commercial Court to follow the example of the Belarusian economic courts, where court-annexed reconciliation has become a useful tool in reducing the back log of cases before the courts.  Mr Ivanov commented that now “the primary goal is to convince our MPs that duly organised reconciliation procedures do not lay the foundation for corruption”. 

Similar to the mediation procedure, the proposed court reconciliation process involves the participation of a third party, a “court reconciliator”, who may be either a court employee with higher legal education, a judge’s assistant not involved in the case or a retired judge.  By contrast to the Law on Mediation, the Bill includes detailed provision as to the procedural status of a reconciliator as well as the procedure itself.  It has been suggested that this will make this kind of settlement procedure more attractive than the mediation process. 

Nonetheless, the Bill has faced an upward struggle: it has been criticised by public associations and the Government, in particular, for the alleged undermining of the basis for development of the mediation process. This is probably one of the reasons why the State Duma has now postponed the review of the Bill in the first reading.