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Valery Zorkin and his colleagues in the Constitutional court defended their right to move to St. Petersburg de jure, but to remain in Moscow de facto.
Photo: Nikita Infantyev
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Dec. 14, 2006
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One in Two Capitals
// Constitutional court can move to St. Petersburg without leaving Moscow
Constitutional courtís moving to St. Petersburg might fail. While preparing to the second reading of the amendments to the law ďAbout Constitutional courtĒ, which would legally validate the courtís migration to Vladimir Putinís native city, the judges managed to insist on adding some points allowing them to work in Moscow and seldom show up in St. Petersburg. The Dumaís Committee on State Structure is to ratify the bill, which has been coordinated with the presidentís staff and the judges, today.
The Dumaís Committee on State Structure will consider the bill introducing amendments to the law ďAbout the Constitutional court of RussiaĒ which will make St. Petersburg the courtís permanent residence. The key point in the bill is that even after the court will have moved, it will be able to ďhold session in a different place, whenever it finds it necessary to do soĒ. This point was in the lawís Article 115 before, but it has never been put to practice. Taking into account that the number of such occasions is not limited, the judges might go to St. Petersburg just for a few sessions a year, and spend the rest of their time in Moscow. Moreover, a new rule will appear about financing the expenses ďcaused by holding sessions not in the permanent locationĒ out of the federal budget, -- no matter how many times the judges find it necessary to hold session in Moscow.

Another reason for preserving the courtís actual residence in Moscow became amending Article 115 by the statement that ďto secure the access of citizens to constitutional justice, constant link of the Constitutional court with other governing bodies, cooperation in carrying out the courtís powers, a representative office of the court will be created in Moscow.Ē Since ďcarrying out the powersĒ implies holding the courtís visiting sessions, this office should have all necessary infrastructure. It will allow most judges to remain Muscovites even after the courtís moving to St. Petersburg. They will have to go to St. Petersburg only for several days or weeks a year, Ė just for the sake of formality.

Keeping the right to work mostly in Moscow is the judgesí big victory. From the very beginning, they were absolutely against moving the court to St. Pete. Thus, back in January 2004, when Then Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov commissioned the Cabinet to consider the issue of moving upper judicial bodies to the northern capital, the courtís deputy chairman Vladimir Strekozov said that most judges are against moving it there.

The bill was introduced to the State Duma in December 2005. The judges refrained from public comments. Only the courtís ex-judge Tamara Morshchakova openly criticized the idea. However, head of the courtís secretariat Yuri Kudryavtsev addressed a resolution to the Duma in March 2006. The resolution had been prepared ďon the order of the courtís chairmanĒ. It stated that moving the court will make its work less effective, and will lead to ďthe loss of highly skilled employees of the legal bodyĒ.

Another fact proved that the judges did not give up resisting. Second reading of the document, which had been ratified in the first reading on March 22, was postponed several times. The judges made a number of claims to the Kremlin, said a source in the Duma. They rejected the amendment suggested by the Cabinet according to which the date of the courtís moving to St. Pete should be set by the president, while the procedure and the conditions Ė by the Cabinet. The courtís top officials also insisted on coordinating the terms and conditions with the judges. Besides, the courtís head Valery Zorkin suggested creating a full-righted representative office, where judges would be working as well as staff members.

Finally, the courtís strongest wishes were taken into account. For instance, nothing is said of the Cabinetís role in moving of the court. Moreover, the president will coordinate the date of the beginning of the courtís work in St. Petersburg according to the judgesí wishes. Besides, good living conditions will be created for those judges who will move to the new place. Social guarantees are prepared for the courtís staff as well.

If the Committee advises to pass the bill, it may be passed in second and third readings next week.

Syuzanna Farizova

All the Article in Russian as of Dec. 14, 2006

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