Russian commercial courts favor businesses over government

Today’s edition of Slon.ru provides an analysis of the Russian commercial courts’ decisions based on the report published by the Institute for the Rule of Law with the European University in Sankt-Petersburg. The report under the title “Statistical analysis of the Russian commercial courts’ rulings” analyzed 10,000 respective cases – their pecuniary value, involved parties, course of court proceedings – in order to explain the factors influencing the rulings. While the public pays attention to high-profile cases, which as a rule seem to be decided in favor of the state, the commercial courts actually decide most of the cases in favor of businesses. Government institutions have an advantage when it comes to typical smaller administrative disputes, which is natural given their extensive experience in cases that are unique for most businesses. When it comes to administrative cases with bigger values involved, the government and the businesses are equally likely to win. However, businesses perform much better in civil cases, where they are clear favorites to win. The report discovered other interesting facts: for instance, it is more likely for a business to win a case with a value ranging from 0.5 to 1 million rubles (USD 16,000-33,000) than a case valued at between 2-5 million rubles (USD 65,000-163,000). Also, there is a 75 percent chance that a case with a value of less than 307 thousand rubles will be decided within two months.

It is perhaps not surprising that the government officials seem to pay little attention to the costs, as they initiate many cases with a value less than the cost of filing. Filing a lawsuit costs the government between 15-45 thousand rubles (USD 490-1,465), but more than half of the cases initiated by government institutions are valued at less than 15 thousand rubles. Such cases represent approximately 7 percent of all commercial court cases and a significant workload for the judges, but there is no way around them – it would be both illegal and immoral to ignore such cases only because of their low value.

That said, most of the cases have a value of 100,000 rubles (USD 3,300) or less and are usually decided routinely, or as the report states, “in 77 percent of the civil cases, Russian commercial courts play a purely administrative role”, which consists of simply ordering a party to perform in accordance with its defined legal or contractual duties. Authors of the article end by presuming that the low value of cases heard before the Russian commercial courts is a probable reason behind their relative independence from greater government influence – the stakes are simply too low.

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