Crimean conflict prompts significant adjustments to court system

Without prejudice to the Ukraine government's official position on Crimea - in particular, its non-recognition of Crimea's proclaimed independence and subsequent accession to the Russian Federation - Ukrainian state authorities have de facto been prevented from operating on the peninsula.

Legislation deadlock

Ukrainian authorities consider Crimea to be under the rule of Ukrainian laws and regulations. However, Article 23 of the Russian federal constitutional law on the admission of Crimea into the Russian Federation states that Russian laws and regulations are effective in Crimean territory. The Russian federal law also states that the laws of the republic of Crimea (de facto laws of Ukraine) that do not contradict the Russian Constitution will apply until expiry of the transitional period (on January 1 2015) or until the adoption of a subsequent law.

Proposed adjustments to territorial jurisdiction of Crimean courts

Article 12 of the Draft Law on the Provision of Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of Ukraine in the Occupied Territories (4473-1, March 19 2014) - pending before the Ukrainian Parliament - provides for the temporary adjustment of territorial jurisdiction for disputes in Crimea and Sevastopol. If adopted, the following changes will become effective:

• Civil cases will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Kiev trial and appeal courts.

• Administrative disputes submitted to the Crimea and Sevastopol Circular Administrative Courts will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Kiev Circular Administrative Court.

• The jurisdiction of the Sevastopol Administrative Court of Appeal will be transferred to the Kiev Administrative Court of Appeal.

• Commercial disputes submitted to the Crimea Commercial Court will be considered by the Kiev Oblast Commercial Court.

• Commercial disputes submitted to the Sevastopol Commercial Court will be considered by the Kiev City Commercial Court.

Pending cases will be transferred to the respective courts with due regard for these rules of jurisdiction.

Despite the Ukrainian authorities' attempts to re-establish court operations, the Crimean authorities have undertaken a large-scale 'reconstruction' of judicial and enforcement systems in the territory.

Judicial system

The Russian federal law on Crimean accession establishes that before the adoption of the Russian Supreme Court decision on the commencement of Russian federal court operations in Crimea, justice will be served by the existing courts on Russia's behalf. Pursuant to the resolution on independence issued by the Crimean Parliament on March 17 2014, Ukrainian courts in Crimea will continue operations and are thus authorised to administer justice in Crimea for the time being. However, in accordance with the Russian federal law, only Russian citizens may act as judges. Therefore, until the issue of judges' citizenship has been settled, the courts cannot function.

Pending cases are subject to further consideration in the courts of appropriate instance (trial and appellate). Consideration will be governed by Russian procedural rules. The Russian Supreme Court will temporarily perform the functions of a cassation appeal court.

State enforcement service

At the moment, the state enforcement authorities are de facto not performing their duties.

Article 12 of the Russian federal law on Crimean accession suggests that the final decisions of the Ukrainian courts (ie, those that have entered into force) will be considered as official documents issued by Ukrainian state authorities; as such, the legal effect of these decisions has been preserved. Therefore, commenced enforcement proceedings are subject to further enforcement actions, while court decisions that have entered into force are enforceable without exequatur.

The Russian Federal Bailiffs' Service also recently announced the adoption of regulations to establish new territorial bodies of the service in Crimea and Sevastopol.

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