Peculiar properties of the legal status of judges in the Russian Federation

Abstract. The article deals with the legal status of judges in Russia. The peculiar properties of judges’ status and their place in the system of public authorities of the Russian Federation are considered. The research is based on the norms of current Russian legislation. Besides, some international regulatory documents reflecting the legal status of judges representing courts of various instances are also taken into consideration.

Keywords: judge, status, legal status, legislation, judicial power.

   The relevance of the topic under consideration is due primarily to the fact that there are three separate and independent branches of government in Russia: legislative, executive and judicial. The latter is the most independent, which makes it possible to impartially and objectively consider various disputes arising between the subjects of legal relations. Perhaps, at all times, the judges experienced a special attitude related to their social and legal status.

   Before talking about the status of judges in Russia, it is necessary to indicate what the concept of status implies. The origin of the term “status” is the Latin word “status” meaning “state, position”. In modern society, the term “status” is used to denote the legal status of someone, whether it is a citizen, official, governing body, or legal entity. [1]

   Given the above, it can be said that the legal status of a judge means the legal status of a judge as a statesman, which is necessarily enshrined in law. The legal status of judges was enshrined in such normative acts as the Constitution of the Russian Federation (articles 120–122, 124, 128); Law on the Status of Judges; Law on the Judicial System (chap. 2); Law on the Constitutional Court (chap. 2); Federal Constitutional Law “On Military Courts of the Russian Federation” (chap. 3); Federal Law “On Justices of the Peace in the Russian Federation” (articles 6–8) and other laws; as well as in by-laws.

   The importance of international law in regulating the legal status of judges should not be underestimated. The most significant document regulating the activities in this area is the European Charter on the Status of Judges of 1998, as well as the Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary endorsed in 1985.

   After a detailed analysis of the current legislation provisions, we highlighted some elements of the legal status of a judge.

   Let us list the elements of legal status:
1. As carriers of the judiciary, judges are public entities that are vested with the right to exercise authority.
2. Unity of the status of judges. This means that all judges are equal within the judicial community. The law guarantees equal protection of their rights, but they are also assigned the same responsibilities and restrictions.
3. Assignment of qualification classes to judges. To date, the following classes are established: higher, first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation have the highest qualification class.
4. The presence of special requirements for the judge and special restrictions related to his status.

   Here is an example:
a) the obligation to strictly observe the Constitution of the Russian Federation and other laws; the judge is also obliged to be guided by the principles and rules of conduct of the Code of Judicial Ethics, generally accepted standards of morality and ethics, strictly following the oath of the judge;
b) the judge is not entitled to:
holding other public positions, positions of state or municipal service, as well as being an adjudicator or arbitrator [2];
engaging in entrepreneurial and other paid activities, with the exception of teaching, scientific and other creative activities, if this does not impede the performance of the duties of a judge.
termination of labor duties in order to resolve a labor dispute.
5. Independence of judges: in their activities they are subject only to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws.
6. Unaccountability of judges. Intervention in the activities of judges in order to prevent the administration of justice entails criminal liability (parts 1 and 3 of article 294 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
7. The obligation to fulfill the requirements and orders of judges by any entities to which they are addressed throughout the territory of the Russian Federation.
8. The irremovability of judges, meaning that judges cannot be appointed (elected) to another position or transferred to another court without their consent.
9. Unlimited terms of office of federal judges. However, do not forget that they can be suspended or terminated on the grounds specified in the law.
10. The maximum age for the tenure of a judge is 70 years, unless otherwise provided by federal constitutional law.
11. The immunity of judges, which is closely related to the special procedure for bringing them to criminal and administrative liability, the procedural order of detention, the implementation of operational-search measures and investigative actions.
12. In the event that the judge has committed a disciplinary offense, the responsibility occurs in the form of a warning or early termination of powers. But there are peculiarities of bringing to justice: the fact is that the usual procedure does not work here: decisions on imposing a disciplinary sanction on a judge can be made only by the appropriate Qualification Collegium of Judges, and in the case of a disciplinary offense by a judge of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, only the RF Constitutional Court can make such a decision. It is possible to appeal such a decision to a special body, the Disciplinary Judicial Presence.
In order to better understand what actions of a judge entail disciplinary responsibility, it is advisable to disclose the concept of disciplinary misconduct. This concept involves violation of the Law on the Status of Judges, the Code of Judicial Ethics (for judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation – and the norms of the Law on the Constitutional Court), as well as violation of generally accepted moral standards, duties in the administration of justice, rules of conduct in the performance of other official duties and extracurricular activities.
Here are the statistics for Russia. So, in the period from January 2009 to November 1, 2012, qualification collegiums of judges of constituent entities of the Russian Federation, in connection with disciplinary offenses, terminated the powers of 160 judges ahead of schedule and imposed penalties in the form of a warning for 875 judges. For the Higher Qualification Collegium these figures are three and two judges respectively [3].
13. The right of a judge to resign (honorary retirement or honorary removal from office). Moreover, the judge’s resignation does not terminate all the privileges associated with his status: the title of a judge is preserved, and all guarantees of personal integrity and membership in the judicial community are preserved.
14. The law imposes an obligation to improve professional qualifications of judges: for example, federal judges are required to upgrade their qualifications at least once every three years.
15. Measures for material support and social protection of judges. Material support includes a monthly salary in accordance with the position held, a monthly salary of a judge in accordance with the qualification class assigned to him, in addition: a monthly monetary incentive, an additional payment for the length of service, for the academic degree of a candidate of legal sciences and other additional payments. Among social guarantees, one can note the provision of leave of 30 working days (this does not take into account the travel time to the place of rest and back); and given the length of service in the legal profession, annual additional paid leave may be provided), etc.
16. The use of security measures to protect life and health. Such measures include: personal security, home security, the issuance of weapons, changing appearance, etc.

   Thus, having examined the main provisions of legislation on the status of judges in the Russian Federation, we came to the conclusion that such a status, with all its privileges, rights and obligations, is able to provide an opportunity for a judge to exercise independent, impartial and fair justice [4]. However, one should not forget that there is a downside: some judges commit offenses, or even crimes, abusing their official position.

In this regard, it seems necessary to carry out enhanced control (possibly by creating a special supervisory authority) that would strictly monitor how the judge uses the freedoms and privileges granted.

   In order to maintain the objectivity and impartiality of justice, we consider it necessary to especially tighten the responsibility of judges for such a crime as receiving a bribe. Otherwise, what kind of “fair” trial can be discussed, if our “servants of Themis” make their decision depending on the size of the remuneration received?

   And here we are also talking about the moral character of the judge, because the parties involved in the trial turn to the court “Your Honor”. And this, in our opinion, says a lot.

1. Ozhegov S.I., Shvedova N. Yu. Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language M.: Azbukovnik, 1999. p.764; a large illustrated dictionary of foreign words M.: Russian dictionaries; ACT; Astrel, 2004, p.744.
2. Report of V.V., the Chairman of the Higher Qualification Collegium of Judges of the Russian Federation to the VIII All-Russian Congress of Judges // Official website of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation. URL: detail.
3. Atyashev M.S. On the issue of staffing of the judicial system // Russian judge. 2007. N 7.
4. Kleandrov M. I. Status of a judge: legal and related components. M.: Norma, 2008, p.22.

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