President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zorkin, we are meeting on Constitution Day, but the Constitutional Court is hard at work on weekdays and holidays, and I know that members of the court analyse incoming cases and applications. In all, 11,500 appeals have been received.
Chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin: Approximately. Each year, this figure reaches about 12,000 to 13,000 or slightly less.
Mr President, surprisingly, the situation changed significantly following the amendments to the Constitution and the Federal Constitutional Law. Now it is possible to appeal to the Constitutional Court only after a person has gone through all other courts, including the Supreme Court. Earlier, this was possible even without the Supreme Court. I believe that this is the best option because ordinary courts defend people. I want to say that the number of complaints has not diminished, although everyone spoke about allegedly more difficult access.
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Valery Zorkin: In reality, this is not so. We are satisfied from this standpoint, and we are working hard.
Vladimir Putin: You have reviewed over 50 cases.
Valery Zorkin: This amounts to rulings or serious decisions when the future of a law is decided: either we retract this law from the current legal system and recognise it as unconstitutional, or we provide such an interpretation that makes it impossible to apply this law in its previous form.
A person appealing in line with his or her personal case and interests essentially decides the future of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of cases that were resolved in the past.
Vladimir Putin: This implies a certain precedent.
Valery Zorkin: It appears that he or she has received a bonus, and all others will receive them in the future, too…
Vladimir Putin: In similar situations…
Valery Zorkin: From this standpoint, the Constitutional Court is, of course, a unique tool of the judicial system.
Vladimir Putin: What cases do most appeals deal with?
Valery Zorkin: We handle many social sector cases and many cases with criminal or administrative verdicts. It may be surprising, but we have started dealing with bankruptcy legislation as of late. We have even written a special brief for legislators and for the Government because, of course, there are discrepancies there.
Why did I say this, by way of example? I find it hard to find issues not covered by the Constitutional Court. They include labour and pension rights, criminal verdicts and administrative fines.
We are not sitting idle, although I do not want to say that we are unable to straighten our backs. Of course, we realise that, quite possibly, lower-instance judges, including district judges or magistrates, also find the going hard. I know that their desks are overflowing with papers, etc.
Vladimir Putin: Your work has its own specifics. The decisions mentioned by you, these 50-plus resolutions, have great significance for many people.
Valery Zorkin: They do.
The Constitutional Court compiles reviews of resolutions in time for December 12. However, these are not all our rulings. Our reviews contain the most significant decisions that determine the future of laws. Either they recognise them as unconstitutional or they provide such an interpretation that directly influences law-enforcement practice. All our judges sign them.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Valery Zorkin: I would like to wish all the best to you, as the guarantor of the Constitution, above all.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Please convey my best wishes and words of gratitude to all your colleagues. Thank you.