Dear colleagues, comrades, friends!
The conference we intend to hold here is noteworthy, as it seems to me, in many respects.
First of all, because this is the first major scientific and practical conference held by our new training and scientific center Ц the Academy of Justice, which really starts functioning.
Second, because, as you are aware, the suggestions how to improve the law regulating court operation and justice administration are being currently prepared. And it is my belief that the time to discuss certain key problems is ripe.
Third, because in my opinion the topic has been defined successfully, since our main objective today is the accessibility of justice for the citizens of this country and the increase of the effectiveness of such activities. And if today each of us here will speak about how to make the justice more accessible and effective, rather than about his or her own affairs, the objective of the conference will be reached.
Fourth, because those attending the conference are, on the one hand, the people directly engaged in administration of justice and, on the other hand, the people capable of analyzing it, estimating it objectively, as well as elaborating possible suggestions facilitating increase of the effectiveness and accessibility of justice. I find this topic extremely important.
On February 19 we will hold a final meeting with chairmen of the arbitration courts to discuss our work in 2000 and the tasks for the next year. The key issues we have been discussing for the past several years are the issues of the accessibility and effectiveness of justice. I think that the accessibility and effectiveness of justice in the sphere of civil and arbitration proceedings are governed by the extent of the effective protection of infringed rights and interests. The protection of rights and interests is the objective of justice in this sphere. Consequently, in order to protect, the justice must be accessible, and to make the protection real, the justice must be effective. Hence, the accessibility and effectiveness of justice are not the end in itself, but the means of attaining another goal Ц protection of the subjective, private, and public rights and interests infringed by judicial activities.
In my opinion, there exist many components of the accessibility and effectiveness of justice. These are a timely and unfailing acceptance of the statements of claim, timely initiation of proceedings, the periods for consideration of cases and the quality of the judgements rendered, i.e. their lawfulness and substantiation, and, of course, the enforceability of the judgements Ц sometimes we render the judgements which cannot be enforced and, consequently, they do not solve the principal task Ц protection of the subjective right. Finally, this also includes a guarantee of enforcement, since until and unless the judgement is enforced, no protection is possible. And, of course, we will discuss a number of factors ensuring accessibility and effectiveness of justice, i.e. on the one part, we will point to the obstacles to the former and the latter and, on the other part, determine the ways of their removal and the way to ensure the accessibility and effectiveness of justice. I have no intention to deliver a report here, but want just to outline some of these factors which have always been very important for the arbitration court system.
First of all, an attention should be paid to the workload on the courts, because it is obvious that when the courts are overloaded, it is difficult to ensure accessibility and effectiveness of justice. The excessive workloads on the courts can be explained by a number of factors, such as unreasonable referral to the court of the materials and cases which should not be necessarily considered by the court. Therefore, sometimes the overload is artificial: the courts are vested with the responsibility to consider ex parte cases, and it is not always that the courts should entertain such cases.
For instance, the arbitration courts today deal with liquidation of legal entities. There are millions of СdeadТ legal entities, i.e. which do not actually exist anymore. Each of these the court has to put through the judicial procedure of liquidation of legal entities, which has to be carried out according to every and all procedural rules, with invitation of the respondents who have long ceased to exist, etc. I do not think that this is a purely judicial procedure. It is quite clear that the judicial procedure in this case should be used only because the liquidation of a legal entity comprises elements of a dispute, of a conflict, whereas the court has to give an answer to the question what is legal and what is illegal, rather than simply carry out technical operations in order to find legal entities which have ceased to exist and consider how to liquidate these in such situation.
The second factor directly affecting the accessibility and effectiveness of justice is the number of judges. Today the lack of judges is catastrophic.
The third factor is the personnel of the courts, since, for instance, the arbitration courts are poorly equipped in this sense.
The fourth factor is computerization, and if we fail to solve this task today, the courts will always be overloaded.
The fifth, though it is relevant to the means of the overload problem solution, is a wide use of the alternative methods of dispute resolution, including reconciliatory procedures, mediation after initiation of proceedings. It is not clear why some of our colleagues are against these. I have witnessed application of such procedures abroad Ц they work perfectly, and in this country there is an opinion that these would result in something shadowy and filthy. I do not think that anybody should in advance suspect the people who will be responsible for these procedures. To my mind, if well regulated, these procedures will be quite effective.
In my opinion, this also includes differentiation of the process, especially administrative and civil proceedings. Currently they are not differentiated. And, of course, streamlined procedures in certain categories of cases.
As regards the effectiveness and quality of justice, specialization issues are very important there. The experience of arbitration courts attests the above quite well: administrative panels have been successfully working for five years. Had we not done so five years ago, we would have experienced tremendous difficulties, because it is simply impossible to be simultaneously an expert in privatization legislation and tax legislation. Consequently, specialization of judges is needed, as well as on-going training of the judges, and there is lack of funds to finance it. Scientific back-up of the court activities is needed, as well, as we face many problems which have not been sufficiently theoretically studied. There is a deficit of the initial information enabling to make a right decision with respect to a particular problem. And, naturally, the key issue for increasing the effectiveness of justice is the judicial cadres Ц their selection and appointment. This naturally includes the responsibility of the judges, including disciplinary responsibility.
In my opinion, these are all fairly acute issues. Here different viewpoints exist. Some of the judges accept the disciplinary responsibility, others categorically reject it arguing that it is an encroachment on the judgesТ independence. Here we have better to dot the i-s and cross the t-s, even if not completely, because we will continue to argue, but still we need to determine certain approaches. I have pointed out some of the aspects which, in my opinion, are relevant to the topic of accessibility and effectiveness of justice.
In conclusion, I would like to express my hope that our work will be fruitful and efficient. I wish you every success!