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Constitutional Court Supports Case Law

The Constitutional Court of the RF made a ruling for the first time regarding the constitutionality of case law in Russia.

The Constitutional Court has supported establishing a system of legal precedent, and the arbitration court actively uses precedent in new cases, but reviews previous decisions based on new precedents in only limited circumstances. The court also believes that legislative norms should be worked out. At present, the concept of case law is not even mentioned in Russian legislation.

The Constitutional Court’s decision was motivated by several complaints against the company Mosenergosbyt. In 2006-2007 arbitration courts recovered several million rubles of excess payment made by customers to the supplier. However, in 2008 the Supreme Arbitration Court (SAC) decided to re-open the case in light of a ruling made by the Presidium of SAC on a similar case on May 29, 2007, in favor of the company. SAC dismissed the charges against Mosenergosbyt in the reviewed case.

On Jan.21 the Constitutional Court announced its decision to dismiss the energy consumers’ suit, agreeing that SAC can give abstractly worded regulations applied by arbitration courts a legal interpretation. However, according to the Constitutional Court, reviewing cases that have already been decided should only be done under exceptional circumstances. In other words, the practice of reviewing old cases because of new precedents should be discontinued.

After Anton Ivanov became Chairman of SAC in 2005, SAC has actively molded a system of precedents up to this day. On Feb. 14, 2008 the Plenum of SAC ruled that the Plenum can interpret the legal norms in decrees generalizing court practice, and the Presidium can when the subject matter is concrete. According to the decision of the courts, the legal positions of SAC became obligatory for all arbitration courts, while prior decisions may be reviewed if the verdict was different from that of the new precedent.

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