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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It May Get Harder to Hire and Fire Judges

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry said Monday that it was considering a proposal to toughen the selection criteria for judges and to require lawmakers' approval before they could be fired.

It was not clear how far the proposal, which would amend the federal law on judges' status, would increase the independence of the judiciary, however. The proposal would require that judges who have three verdicts overturned be investigated.

Under the proposal, only lawyers with 10 years of legal practice would be eligible to become judges. Currently, lawyers need five years' experience before they can be considered for the job.

The ministry is still considering other details of the selection criteria, a spokeswoman said.

The proposal would also make it more difficult for judges to be fired. A decision by the Supreme Qualification Collegium, the top judges' body in the country, and by a regional or federal parliament would be required to fire a judge.

Under current rules, judges can be dismissed by local qualification collegiums on the recommendation of chief judges. Chief judges, who are nominated by members of the presidential administration and appointed by presidential decree, are widely seen as an instrument in the hands of the authorities to control the judiciary.

Under the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's proposal, chief judges would still be responsible for judges' salaries, perks and promotions.

Sergei Nasonov, an analyst with the Independent Council of Legal Experts, said the proposal was a step toward an independent judiciary, but added that it offered only a partial solution. "We are talking about implementing criteria that would give the authorities' representatives levers to check up on judges and to start a kind of impeachment proceeding after three of their verdicts have been overturned. This measure can be used against judges," Nasonov said.

Nasonov praised the provision in the proposal that parliaments would get to have their say before a judge was fired.

"This is a step toward [judges'] independence because the decision to fire a judge will be made not only by the Qualification Collegium," he said.

The proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet by this fall, the ministry's press office said.