How judges arrest and acquit: Soviet legacies in postcommunist criminal justice

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8 Citations (Scopus)


I hope that every year we will have more and more acquittals because this is absolutely correct. We should not be shy in issuing them. Dmitry Medvedev, president of Russia, April 26, 2012 The times in the past, when the acquittals were issued in 2–3 percent of cases, are gone. Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine, October 2, 2012 If someone fell asleep in the late 1980s in a courtroom in Sofia, Moscow, or Tbilisi and suddenly awoke in 2010, she or he would notice many differences. Courtrooms would have become larger and equipped with computers, microphones, and video cameras. Courthouses would no longer have posters about socialist legality and the guiding role of the Communist Party. Instead, their hallways would be full of people talking to their lawyers about all kinds of new legal rules and rights. Judges dressed in dark-colored robes would be busily hearing countless cases about these rights. They would often rule against the government authorities of all levels in various kinds of disputes. However, postcommunist judges would also behave in some very familiar ways. In addition to keeping the trials soporific, they would be systematically biased in favor of state prosecution in the criminal justice system. Similar to the period of “developed socialism,” the first twenty years of postcommunism demonstrate that judges consistently show the Soviet-era “accusatory bias” and side with the state prosecutors in both pretrial and trial stages of criminal proceedings. This cozy relationship between judges and prosecutors has been remarkably stable across postcommunist countries. These countries vary in terms of politics, composition of judicial and prosecutorial corps, funding of the judiciary and of the law enforcement system, crime rates, and court caseloads. Yet this variation does not seem to affect the nature of the friendly relations between judges and prosecutors. Despite serious expansion of judicial discretion, a more vibrant bar, and the introduction of adversarial court proceedings, postcommunist judges continue to strengthen two late socialist legacies of criminal justice systems: near universal approval of detention of the accused, and avoidance of acquittals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781107286191
ISBN (Print)9781107054172
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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