By the end of the year 6,000 lay justices will be working in Russia, Director General of the Russian Supreme Court Judges' Department Alexander Gusev reported on Wednesday. The number of lay justices will be increased by 500 people, he said.
"In compliance with the federal legislation Russia should have 6,500 lay justices, that is, 1 justice for each 25,000-30,000 of population," Gusev explained. At present many regions of Russia are actively creating judicial districts and appointing lay justices in order to complete the formation of the judicial establishment as soon as possible," he pointed out.
The Supreme Court has already introduced a proposal to further increase the number of lay justices, he recalled. It intends to almost double their number, so that there will be one justice for each 15,000 people. "The reason is that in some regions the amount of work of lay justices is too great and significantly exceeds the that of federal justices," Gusev said.
Earlier Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev assessed the work of lay justices as "very good". They hear up to 70 per cent of civil cases and about 20 per cent of criminal ones, he said. "In comparison with federal courts, lay justices hear more cases in less time, which significantly improves citizens' access to justice," Lebedev emphasized.
At the same time, the quality of their verdicts is higher than in other courts, he pointed out. Citizens lodge appeals against only 10 per cent of lay justices' verdicts, and only 2.5 per cent are abolished.
In compliance with the current legislation, lay justices function as courts of original jurisdiction for trying criminal cases concerning crimes with statutory punishment of up to 2 years of imprisonment. They also hear family, labour and some property disputes.