In July, the State Duma is to consider in the first reading the last initiative by the second Russian President. This comes out of the decision by the Duma Council of 13 May. The draft of the federal law and the explanatory note attached arrived at the Duma from the Presidential secretariat at 21:17 p.m. on 6 May 2008. The couriers working fast on such a level, it means that on his last day of office Putin had signed the document at about half past eight.
We, Russian electors, would understand if before leaving the Kremlin Putin had suggested something compact and significant at one time, for example, a project of putting the Lenin’s body out of the Mausoleum. However, his final initiative was regarding the relations between lawyers and bodies of the state registration. Well, looks a bit unimaginative for a finale.
There is only intrigue for connoisseurs: only an expert could see a hard stroke against the defense, the Constitutional right of citizens to have a qualified help in the court of justice, a stroke against independence of justice on the whole. The meaning of the amendments suggested can be reduced to allowing the registration bodies to apply for withdrawal of the lawyer’s status not only to the bar self-governing agencies, but also to the courts directly. With the existing level of the court’s independence, the registering bodies, related closely to Prosecutor’s office and interior ministry, will get a great tool of influence on the bar, after which it would be senseless any talking about effective defense of the citizens in the cases where there is a special concern by the authority. With its another option the bill suggests abolishing the legal professional privilege, as it is assumed that the officials from registration bodies will be given the right to require the lawyers’ explanations and to check whether the lawyers represent properly the interests of their defendants and principals. Besides, the bill suggests that the lawyers once at fault be prohibited from being accepted in the bar in the future, which can be defined as a ban on profession, and this is recognized to be absolutely inadmissible in the entire civilized world.
The document got to the Boris Gryzlov desk on 7 May, the Inauguration Day where Dmitry Medvedev became the new President. It seems that that the speaker of the Duma should have specified with the new head of state his attitude towards the idea, before passing it to the Duma Council.
The matter is that here the words by Medvedev about strengthening the independence of the courts may not be suited with actions. Justice without independent defense (independent form the state above all) is like a vehicle without one wheel: even when three other wheels are perfection itself, the car wouldn’t go. The Bar in Russia, which is far from being perfect just like the court itself, of course, needs to be given a special attention to. But if that is commissioned to the officials from the regional organs of registration, we shall have no real court at all. All the arguments about the topic are summarized in the international experience. And the domestic effective Federal Law “On the Bar in Russian Federation” is based on the principles of self-governing and independence from the state. And now this law is being suggested to be “amended”.
It’s clear that the lawyer Dmitry Medvedev was made a President by Vladimir Putin who had made his choice between the law enforcers and the jurists a bit earlier than all the Russian voters did. Then how could this document have come out of his office on 6 May evening?
Putin is more of enforcer than of jurist. If we are to believe the political scientists, the real power still stays with him. So which of his hands will defeat the other and at what expense? Shall we turn to the jural state, as it is promised by Medvedev, or shall we come back to “dictatorship of the law”, announced at the beginning of the Putin’s reign and more appropriate for the “sovereign democracy”? The choice is not possible to be made too long. The validity of words spoken by one of the “talking heads” of the Russian double-headed eagle will be seen soon after a series of litmus tests, one of which is the destiny of amendments to the bill about the Bar.