Created: 10/1/1988

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The Soviet Legal System and

Its Key Players: Facing

the Challenges of Reform BM

The Soviel Legal Syslem and

lis Key Players: Facing

the Challenges of Reform

litable3 -as uitd in ihii iipo"

with an oficn ineffective and corrupt Soviet judicial system. Communist Patty (CPSU) General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, as is evident in the resolutions approved at theh Conference of the CPSU. has declared his determination io establish ihr "rule of law" in Soviet society!

the party conference resolution on legal reform layshorough revitalization of the legal apparatus, theto date has been administered by institutions and. in many cases,who predate Gorbachev's accession. The party, throughegal structure in which central,and adjudicating bodies direct branchy at theregional, and local (district and ciivl levels. Kcv institutions oflegal apparatus

A powcrfuirprocuracyjat all levels, which is generally independent of all but party supervision and which has broad powers; it supervises invcsliea-

the Ministry of Internal Affairs iMV'tJ. which ensure domestic order and pe,rfnrrn investigative functions. The KGB has been

Viktor Chebrikovl

the other hand, the

has been iksandr Vlasov.

Ministries o{ Justice!at the national and republic levels, which oversee^ the conduct ofnd the har andcv role inlethal policy and information domestically and in representing Soviet leeal policy tnld The Minister of Justice. Boris Kravtsoy.rc-Oorbachcv holdover who nonetheless has lent his strong public support to the goals of legal reform.


court system arcach level,ational-level Supreme Court and republic- and regional-level appellate courts, as well as special courts. Although the court system purports io be an independent judiciary, party interference in the courts' work is common, particularly at the lowere court system also is encumbered with prc-Oorbachcv judges. In the USSR Supreme Court, for example, the hairmanjother jurists arcML1

Although Gorbachev has replaced some of the leaders of thesewith his own people, the personnel changes so-far haveoad mixedsuggesting that the General Secretary is not yet able to.-place forceful advocates of change in the top posts in the legal structure. For example, -Aleksandr Sukharev. who was recently elevated to the post of USSRcnrr.-ii.rom organization veteran who. despite consistent lipservicc lo legal reform, is not regarded as its strong suppoi tcsiJattrnW

To strengthen his hand. Gorbachcvxould:

Give grcutcr power to the MVD boss.

Eventual^ remove Chebrikov from hi? flv^ipn; nf ihfli-gal sv^em.

Replace Justice Minister Kravtsovore dynamic figure such as Vladimir Kudryaviscv.

Change the composition of the Supreme Court and lower courts by installing more relorm-minded .

Gorbachev's -movement in tfiese areas willhis success at legal restruciuring.Timiicd personnel change, despite the passage of new legislation, wouldontinued uphill battle on legal reform for Gorbachev JJJJJJJJ





Implementing Bodies


Security Organs

Ministries of Justice

USSR Court System

Legal Departments of the Foreign Trade Sector

Treaty and Legal Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

ofMixed Picture




The Soviel Legal System and

Its Key Players: Facing

the Challenges of Reform WM

As Communist Party (CPSU) General SecretaryGorbachev embarksrogram of legal re-

theany oTlhe officials servinghave grown uphichpolitical

the party and state aoovc tnosc ol the individual Soviet ci'ti/en "'1 hey arc thustniderstandably resistantany proposed reforms. MmW

Ath CPSU Conference, held in late June and earlyorbachev oversaw the adoption of resolutions aimed at broad legal reform. He has demanded greater efficiency and accountability from the legal and security apparatus]

lOroachev has

called on key institutions and officials in the legal system to exhibit greater tolerance of unofficial criti-cism, reduce ihc seventy ol many criminalconouct investigations more fairly, genuinely implcmeriTTne presumpliflrl Bl'lnflflcence tor criminal defendants, and improveaimrnt of nmnnera.

Fitmtt I. KGB bolt Cktbrtkov dtlirtriat spue* at Dxenhintkly Day celebrations.7 IFeUks Diertkirakty founded the Soviet secret police iM

Party Oversight

The Implementing Bodies

The Procuracy

Below the party, the Procuracy- is the institution aith the broadest responsibility in the legal apparatus. Subject to substantial party influence, it generally

state organs and is


_ over inyc

j conduct, ooun procedures, and the observance oi law in most government agencies andandate that

state i

hich is concerned primarily with matters of criminal |gw. can be involved ina case from the initial investigation throughout the trial and appeal process, up to and including the USSR Supreme Court. Unlike the court system, the Procuracy is not formally elective in nature. It is headed at the nation-al level by the USSR Procurator General, whoeven-year renewable term, and at lower levels by procurators who serve five-year terms. By law. the Procurator General of the USSR appoints andhis subordinates at all levelstrict, verticil line off


fifit i.m-

MVD. which fulfills ihe bulk of ihe USSR's day-to-day poiice functions, investigates'uic vast

Tbe Ministries of Justice"

The Sovietoft tht.and

republic levels monitor the ludicialSR. including militaryguide ihe formulation of new legislation; and servelear

ijon such as statistics and changes in JudicialThe ministries communicate the parly'sthroughout the legal community and marshal the resources and support necessary lo implement those policies, m

ess direct manner than the Procuracy, which Jias an explicit wan-yip?ihe ministries oversee the work of court officials throuch ihe issuance of guidelines and the orginir.ifnq nfseminars. Their educational role js also aimed a: the lavman: in ihe Soviet system, information and propaganda about ihc law and its agencies aremajor elements of socialization for all citizens


ustice Ministry

1 USSR Mia Is try of Jnstiet

Minister: Mam

oSarvesdcarta| house for "ti: policy

it retponiible foedacuio'i and

oCoordlnau* expert adflcc.

oCompilts and publlihei Icaal fiWrac) luuiua

Officially npreitatt Soviet lata! system in ihe

roadly oicncci operation cf;udlcial tiruciuni


Union or Anlonomoos Republic Ministries {alio itiowi'tk iom nmwi ariaaa]

0>enrr icpooal and local judicial tinctures

i/Ib* Bar

Local Aid Nourici, .

Dozens of specialized institutea. inch isnion Research Institute of Soviel Legislation and the All-Union Research Institute of Judicial Expertise, which are analogousroad spectrum of public and private schools, bureaus, and research organizations in the West, arc subordinate to the ministries. These" organizations, as well as entities such as the Institute

The ASU Treatfor SovietKmdryetitei

Sute and Law. under ibe Academy of Sciences, and ihe Moscow Slate University Law Faculty,numerous legal journals, produce andarge proportion of the legitimate legal scholarship io ihc USSR, and help define the issues of legal debate in the iniellectual and polky arenas. Since the advent

ofeform program, several top legal scholars have come forward as public spokesmen for the more progressive trends in Soviet law



Ministries of Justice nrnvidf gengaj gjliflancc and set fees for lawyers, orho anW and represent private citizens in the USSR. The Soviet bat, organized into collegiums at variouslevels, supervises the work of the Icgalaid bureaus, which serve the miblic directly. The number of advocates in the USSR is regulated by the Ministry of Juslic

Tbe USSR Court System

Tbe most important Soviet court is the USSRCourt, whicheparate military chamber and is both an appellate bodyourt of

(such as that arau^TMa^hiaiTust, the youngwho landed his plane on Red Square in"

t The Supreme Court is

tasked with providing broad guidance in the form of published reports as well as legal interpretations for tot towrg courts, it does not, However, makeecisions "are not treated as legal precedents that are s. source of new law. Nor does it interpret the legality or constitutionality of legislation in the manner ctated with theSupreme

7 Court Structure



Below the USSR Supreme Court, there ate supreme courts and regional and local lorourts wilhin each republic. All courts above the local level


judges, who arc government officials, and "people'say judges who in practice have scan? ao'ihty to shape ihe conclusions ol the court. Above ffic local level, court members are chosen by the

it is not slipul

ponding Sovietscoplc'scoart judges and assessors ate "elected" by ihe



Figure II

State Board of ArbltralioD and People's Conlrol Committee

r Arbitration

iTbc(unction li carried out ti ail nuiai lraH.1

USSR CWrf AfWUrt A'Uo/a,klt*,>

r-lcmcmaiioo of tcooooic and

tonuicioal M'eements bata-ctndjudicates disputes Between emerpniei

Suie Board of Arellrotioo la Major Cilies*

Selected andei Ooreubev.

' Also SBbfCti so parallel aonrnmcni and pany



Foi more informanon on thtnicUifeiKe role. Kt Seen* NF NC OCT. March

mrlllgrmct Collect tenht USSH Chamber af Comment and Indvilrf.MWMWM


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