Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation

Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation

Constitutional Court of Russian Federation (Russian: Конституционный Суд Российской Федерации) is a high court which is empowered to rule on whether or not certain laws or presidential decrees are in fact contrary to the Constitution of Russia. Its objective is only to protect the Constitution (in Russian constitutional law this function is known as "constitutional control" or "constitutional supervision") and deal with a few kind of disputes where it has original jurisdiction, whereas the highest appellate court is the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.


Before 1980s in the USSR the importance of judicial supervision over compatibility of legislation and executive actions with the provisions and principles of the constitution was not recognized. It was not until December 25, 1989 when Constitutional Control in the USSR Act was passed, that such "judicial review" was initiated. Accordingly, the Constitutional Supervision Committee was created. It started functioning mid-1990 and was dissolved towards the end of 1991. In December 1990 the Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was amended with provisions which provided for creation of Constitutional Court (whereas a similar USSR body was called a Committee, not a Court). On July 12, 1991 Constitutional Court of the RSFSR Act was adopted. In October the Fifth RSFSR Congress of Soviets elected 13 members of the Court and the Constitutional Court de facto started functioning. From November 1991 till October 1993 it rendered some decisions of great significance. For example, it declared unconstitutional certain decrees of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which were adopted ultra vires, and forbade the practice of extrajudicial eviction.

On October 7, 1993 Boris Yeltsin's decree suspended work of the Constitutional Court. According to the decree, the Constitutional Court was "in deep crisis". On December 24 another presidential decree repealed the Constitutional Court of the RSFSR Act itself. In July 1994 the new Constitutional Court Act was adopted. However, the new Constitutional Court started working only in February, 1995, because the Federation Council of Russia refused several times to appoint judges nominated by Yeltsin.


The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation consists of 19 judges, one being the Chairman (currently - Valery Zorkin) and another one being Deputy Chairman. Judges are appointed by the President of Russia with the consent of Federation Council of Russia. In order to become a judge of the Constitutional Court a person must be citizen of Russia, attain the age of 40, have legal education, have length of service as a lawyer at least 15 years and have "recognized high qualification" (quotation from Constitutional Court Act) in law.The Constitutional Court consists of two chambers consisting of 10 and 9 judges respectively. The Chairman presides over one of the chambers, the Deputy Chairman presides over the other chamber. Constitutionality of laws, disputes concerning competence of governmental agencies, impeachment of the president of Russia and Constitutional Court's proposals of legislations must be dealt with on plenary session. Besides, Constitutional Court may by its discretion submit to plenary sessions any other issue.


Certain powers of the Constitutional Court are enumerated in the Constitution of Russia. The Constitutional Court declares laws, presidential and governmental decrees and laws of federal subjects unconstitutional if it finds that they are contrary to the Constitution (i.e. they violate certain rights and freedoms of citizens enumerated in and protected by the Constitution). In such instances, that particular law becomes unenforceable, and governmental agencies are barred from implementing it. Also, before an international treaty is ratified by the State Duma, the constitutionality of the treaty may be observed by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court is not entitled to judge constitutionality of laws on its own initiative; the law may be submitted to the Constitutional Court by the President of Russia, the government of Russia, the State Duma, the Federation Council of Russia, one-fifth of members of the State Duma or the Federation Council, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation, or a legislative body of a Federal subject. Any federal court may request the Constitutional Court to judge on the constitutionality of a law if the law is to be implemented in a case, and a judge of the federal court is in doubt about whether the law is contrary to the Constitution or not. Also, any private citizen may submit in the Constitutional Court a claim challenging constitutionality of a particular law if that law was implemented in a particular case and thus violated rights of that citizen.

Another power of the Constitutional Court is to resolve disputes concerning competence of governmental agencies. Whenever the President of Russia is impeached, the Constitutional Court renders a resolution concerning complying with the due order of indictment.


The Constitutional Court deals with cases either in chambers or in plenary sessions. All judges must be present unless he or she is sick or may have interest in the case and must not abstain from voting on the resolution. Apart from judges, claimant and his representatives governmental agencies involved are present. In order for resolution or decision to pass two-thirds of judges must be in favor of it.

Presidential Envoys to the Constitutional Court

* Valery Savitsky (April 241995, – February 51996)
* Mikhail Mityukov (February 5December 71996)
* Sergey Shakhray (December 71996, – June 291998)
* Mikhail Mityukov (June 291998, – November 72005)
* Mikhail Krotov (since November 72005)

See also

* List of constitutional courts
* Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
* Judiciary of Russia

External links

* [ Official Website] (Russian)

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