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Litigation generally refers to resolution of disputes in state courts of a particular jurisdiction. It comprises a wide area of legal relations, including disputes arising out of either business or non-business activities such as torts or crimes. Litigation in its broad sense, therefore, embodies every issue that may be potentially subject to resolution in a state court. A considerable variety of remedies is available to persons seeking to protect or reinstate their rights and interests by means of litigation.
In Russia, the judicial system comprises three types of courts: constitutional courts, courts of general jurisdiction, and commercial (arbitrazh) courts. A court of each branch has its own competence (jurisdiction) specifically determined by respective procedural law (or code). It is usually not difficult for litigants to determine the competent court since the procedural codes expressly provide for criteria of resolving a particular dispute or group of disputes by a relevant court. In short, courts of general jurisdiction resolve disputes arising from civil, family, labour, land, environmental, and some other legal relations, whereas commercial courts resolve disputes arising exclusively from commercial relations between legal entities and self-employed persons. Generally, commercial courts are viewed to be providing litigants with a higher level of proficiency and quality of justice, which makes them a preferred choice over domestic arbitration, thus leading to considerable overload with cases.
Russian litigation is also characterized by relatively short time limits for a trial court to dispose of a case, as well as by moderate court fees. For instance, a commercial court shall resolve a dispute within three months after its filing with a possible extension up to six months for complex disputes. Although the Russian legal system is not precedent-based, courts, and in particular commercial courts, tend to rely on judgment of senior courts when making a decision and are bound to follow the guidelines of the Russian Supreme Court.
Russian litigation has faced significant changes over the last few years. The Supreme Commercial Court, which was the highest appeal instance for commercial courts, was abolished with its functions transferred to the Supreme Court which was the highest appeal instance for courts of general jurisdiction; a move that was met with a lot of disappointment from legal practitioners. There are currently discussions that commercial courts may be further merged the system of general jurisdiction courts. However, due to unstable economic conditions litigation remains a highly active area, with bankruptcy and restructuring cases being particularly on the rise.
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