The head of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev died

The head of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev died


On February 24, 2024, it became known about the death of the Chairman of the Supreme Court (SC) of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Lebedev. He died at the age of 81, after a long illness – which, however, did not prevent him from personally reporting to the president two weeks ago on the successes in the digitalization of courts and the humanization of justice. According to Kommersant’s source in the Supreme Court, Lebedev literally participated in court affairs until the last day, and it is not difficult to believe: the permanent chairman of the Supreme Court was inseparable from his work.

Until yesterday, Vyacheslav Lebedev remained the oldest centenarian in Russian politics. He headed the Supreme Court for almost 35 years. In 1986, he headed the Supreme Court of the then RSFSR, and in 1991 he became the first chairman of the Russian Supreme Court, so he can rightfully be considered one of the designers of the modern Russian judicial system.

Vyacheslav Lebedev was born on August 14, 1943 in Moscow. In 1968, he graduated from the evening department of the Law Faculty of Moscow State University, and before that he worked for several years as a mechanic at the Moscow Reinforced Concrete Pipe Plant. His judicial career began in December 1970, when he was elected (in the USSR at that time judges, although formally, were elected) as a people’s judge of the Leningrad District Court of Moscow, and developed rapidly. In 1977, he headed the Moscow Railway Court, in 1984 he became deputy chairman of the Moscow City Court, and two years later, its chairman. On July 26, 1989, by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR, Vyacheslav Lebedev was appointed to the post of Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court. With the collapse of the USSR, his career was not interrupted: in 1992, the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation (the highest legislative body in 1991–1993) confirmed Lebedev’s right to exercise his powers for ten years from the date of election.

It is noteworthy that in 1991, during the August events associated with the formation of the State Emergency Committee, a telegram was sent to the lower courts stating that “all decisions taken on behalf of this committee are considered illegal and not valid on the territory of the RSFSR.”

And already in October 1991, the first All-Russian Congress of Judges was held in Moscow, at which Vyacheslav Lebedev made a report “Judicial reform – the path to democracy.” The concept of judicial reform approved by the congress proclaimed the judicial power as an independent branch, equivalent to the legislative and executive. The principle of irremovability of judges, the refusal of courts from the accusatory function, the introduction of adversarial proceedings and the establishment of a new structure of the judiciary were declared (in 1993, the Chairman of the Supreme Court became a member of the working commission to finalize the presidential draft constitution, where he defended the right of the Supreme and Supreme Arbitration Courts to come up with legislative initiatives) .

In 1999, in full accordance with the spirit of reform, the Federation Council, on the recommendation of President Boris Yeltsin, appointed Vyacheslav Lebedev as Chairman of the Supreme Court for an unlimited term. However, in 2001, already under Vladimir Putin, amendments were made to the law “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation”, providing for the election of the head of the Supreme Court on a competitive basis for six years, and in 2007, Vyacheslav Lebedev had to go through the reappointment procedure. However, despite fierce competition from the “power bloc” (at some point, the Chairman of the Moscow City Court, Olga Egorova, turned out to be a likely contender for the post of Chairman of the Supreme Court), Lebedev managed to maintain his position over and over again.

In August 2013, he was supposed to reach the age limit for a judge of 70 years, but shortly before that, the president initiated amendments that abolished the age limit for the chairman of the Supreme Court, allowing him to hold office for more than two consecutive terms.

Shortly after this, Lebedev was reappointed by the Federation Council for another six-year term, and in 2014 he headed the united Supreme Court, defeating the chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court Anton Ivanov in a hardware struggle: the competition between the two highest courts ended with the merger of both under the auspices of the Supreme Court.

Kommersant’s interlocutor in the Supreme Court is convinced that the key to Vyacheslav Lebedev’s career longevity was his professionalism, integrity and ability to “keep a balance,” maintaining equidistance from all “Kremlin towers.” The head of the Armed Forces always answered personally to the president, the source emphasizes.

The Supreme Court recalls that Vyacheslav Lebedev took an active part in the preparation of all existing procedural codes and their modernization, but a special place in this series is occupied by the Code of Administrative Procedure (CAC), the need for the adoption of which the Chairman of the Supreme Court has personally defended since 1991. However, in recent years it has become less common to talk about the independence of the court, and reforms have been reduced mainly to measures to reduce the workload on judges. The last major reform that Vyacheslav Lebedev managed to carry out was the creation of a system of cassation and appeal courts, completed in 2019. Next in line is a bill on maximum workload standards for judges, which has been developed but has not yet been submitted to the State Duma – apparently, Vyacheslav Lebedev’s successor will have to deal with this.

The main intrigue now is whether it will be a person from the judicial system (for now, First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court Pyotr Serkov will act as chairman) or someone from the outside.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on State Building Pavel Krasheninnikov and his colleague from the Federation Council Andrei Klishas have already been named as possible candidates for this position (more recently, the senator was just talking out loud that a person without experience as a judge can bring a lot to the table) new and useful in the work of the judicial system).

But, no matter who it was, we have to admit: an era has passed with Vyacheslav Lebedev. And it will no longer be the way it was – he served as a symbol of this system.

Anastasia Kornya


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