Russia Legal News Blast, May 5, 2011

The best independent Russian pollster, Levada Center, published results of its poll concerning attitude of Russian public towards independence of the Russian system. The results are somewhat paradoxical. 58% of those polled believe that the law will nor defend them from arbitrary persecution of authorities. 38% believe otherwise. Russian citizens complain about corruption and lack of independence of the courts, but at the same time overwhelmingly demand to put the courts under a firm control of the executive. Only 25% of those polled said that they supported full independence for Russian courts. The highest Arbitrazh court published a draft law that proposes a drastic increase in stamp duty for appealing of court decisions. While currently the first and cassational appeal are subject to payment of 50% of the stamp duty payed for filing a case with a trial court, the draft provides for 150% of the first instance duty in respect of filing an appeal with an appellate court, and 170% when filing a cassational appeal. A complaint to the Highest Arbitrazh court, currently free if the case was seen by a cassational court, will be subject to 200-250% multiplier. For tax cases, now subject to a nominal duty, the increases are even more spectacular. The stated reason is to decrease the number of cases per judge, not reduce the number of frivolous actions. In other words, creature comforts of judiciary takes precedents over the right to judicial protection for less privileged claimants – read small businesses. Following critical resolution of PACE on Magnitsky case, Russia has escalated the tension. Far from prosecuting the corrupt judges, tax inspectors and investigators guilty of Sergey Magnitsky case, it continues persecute his colleagues and former clients at Hermitage. Thus, William Browder was declared an international fugitive, and an arrest warrant was issued in respect of another Russian executive working for Hermitage, Mr. Cherkasov.