On 23 May 2018, the Russian State Duma adopted in the first reading two bills aimed at improving commercial, civil, administrative and criminal proceedings (the “Bills”).

The Bills provide for the mandatory audio recording of civil and criminal proceedings, automated allocation of cases between judges, possibility for preliminary court hearings to turn into main court hearings and clarification of the status of judicial assistants.

If the changes are adopted and come into force, legal proceedings in Russia should become more transparent, and the consideration of cases more independent and less susceptible to influence by interested third parties.

This, in turn, will make the outcome of cases more predictable.

Audio recordings

It is proposed that audio recordings of court hearings be introduced into civil and criminal proceedings. Such recordings should be mandatory only in first instance courts and on appeal. Persons participating in legal proceedings will have the same rights with audio recordings as they now do with traditional written minutes. This includes the right to review them and submit comments.

Automated allocation of cases

If the Bills are adopted, the composition of the court considering a particular case, regardless of the type of procedure, will be determined by an automated system, which takes into account the workload and specialisation of judges. If it is impossible to use this system, then the court should be formed in another way, which excludes the interference of interested parties.

Preliminary court hearings into main court hearings

To accelerate the consideration of civil and administrative cases, the Bills make it possible for a preliminary court hearing to turn into a main court hearing.

To this end, the following conditions must be cumulatively met:

  • the court finds the case well prepared;
  • the hearing is attended by all the persons participating in the case, or these persons were duly informed of the hearing, but did not appear and did not raise objections to the case being heard in their absence; and
  • the case does not need to be heard by a panel of judges.

Status of judicial assistant

The Bills propose regulating the status of judicial assistants in civil, criminal and administrative proceedings just as this was done in the Russian Commercial Procedure Code. The Bills regulate the powers of judicial assistants in the course of preparation, and during consideration and adjudication of cases.

In addition, if these changes are accepted, those participating in legal proceedings will be able to challenge the allocation of a particular judicial assistant in a particular case.

Entry into force

The anticipated date of the Bills’ entry into force is 1 January 2019.