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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

If you could make one change in Russia's legal environment, what would it be?

Much has been said about the need for judicial reform, but little progress has been made. The Moscow Times polled a number of lawyers -- from one of the country's best-known defense attorneys to a crusader against traffic police corruption -- on what change they most would like to see.

Yevgeny Baru, defense lawyer for former Group Menatep chief Platon Lebedev:

Independence of the judiciary is the one thing that is missing in our legal system. Everything else is in place, but there is no independence. A court should not be dependent on a local administration, party headquarters, presidential administration or any other organization or person. The only guide and basis for any court decision should be wisdom. ... Mankind figured out that basic rule of justice in Biblical times. Even then it was clear and obvious that this is the only way.

William Spiegelberger, Counsel, Head of the disputes practice group in the Moscow office of White & Case LLC:

Court decisions should not come into effect until they are published on the Ministry of Justice's web site.

Why? That way the public would have easy access to decisions, so that they could then be scrutinized and analyzed and no party to court proceedings would be unfairly surprised, and the effective date of the decisions would be fixed and clear.

Alyona Kucher, Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Moscow:

I think I would advocate the reduction of regulatory pressure by the state on business in those spheres where general logic, fair market practice and community interests dictate they are decided by private parties' agreement.

Russian law still includes many mandatory provisions established by the state to govern relations between parties that in many other countries would be left to the parties to decide.

Undoubtedly, there are many spheres where the regulatory endeavors of the state are of paramount importance, but while a young market economy would usually focus first on establishing detailed rules to teach business how to operate in the new environment, a more mature market economy, which Russia is gradually becoming, should focus on the effective protection of fundamental rules and the maintenance of balance in the market.

It is not an easy task for the state and business to distinguish between undue interference and protection, and ensuring the balance between the two.

I only hope that a sense of balance and fairness, as well as the experience that both the Russian state and business are gaining year by year, will help us achieve this goal.

Igor Eliseyev, Lawyer, N?rr Stiefenhofer Lutz:

I would change the procedure for registering changes in the ownership structure of limited liability companies.

According to the law, any changes in the organization or ownership of any limited liability company (obshchestvo s ogranichennoi otvetstvennostyu, or OOO) must be registered in the state registry. The procedure, however, has been simplified to extremes. For example, fiscal bodies do not even carry out a basic check of documents provided for the change, and the change itself is made at the request of the new owners and without any participation from the previous ones.

This simplicity is widely abused by all kinds of crooks. As a result of the actions of such individuals, the director of the company can be replaced and its property sold completely unbeknownst to the owners. After that, the former owners are offered a choice: to buy their company out, sell it at a discount, or fight in court -- which would pretty much guarantee a complete halt to the company's operations. There are hundreds of such cases in Moscow alone.

This loophole could be closed if the tax authorities were required to check all the information in documents provided for the registration of a change in a limited liability company's ownership or the replacement of the company's director.

Viktor Travin, president of the Legal Defense Board, an NGO specializing in providing legal advice on civil law, and especially civil disputes involving drivers and vehicle owners.

I would restore the practice of electing, not appointing, judges. This tradition actually existed in the Soviet Union and, although I am not particularly nostalgic for those times, I believe appointing judges has not done any good to the system as whole, since judges have to be approved by a long list of governmental bodies all the way up to the president.

As a result, whenever a case of an individual vs. the state is heard, the decisions are almost never in favor of the individual. Judges tend to side with the state. For example, in my experience, when a violation that could involve the withdrawal of a driver's license is heard in a Moscow court, the ruling is practically guaranteed to be a driving ban rather than, let's say, a fine.

This is because the city authorities have been trying to use all means at their disposal to reduce the number of cars on the streets, including doing it with the help of the city's courts. With judges totally dependent on authorities when it comes to getting pay raises or other perks like housing or promotions, there is simply no equality or fair competition in cases where an individual opposes the state. A person is taking on at least two representatives of the state: the actual prosecution, and the judge.

Alexander Dolgikh, Junior Associate with Bech Bruun Dragsted International A/S:

There is no mechanism for settling civil disputes outside the courts, no institution for mediation. Elsewhere in the world this way of freeing the courts by means of employing specially trained professionals has proved to be very efficient. Another acute problem is the complexity of registering a company. There are literally a few kilograms of papers needed to register a business. There is a need for a so-called "one-window" procedure for registration, and for the shortening of mandatory company charters to just one page, listing only the official address, account number and the area of business.