Controversy over issue preclusion in Russia’s criminal procedure: Can common law offer a solution?
Even though Russia’s new Code of Criminal Procedure of 2001 had from the very beginning contained the article titled ‘Preclusive Effects,’ it was not until a decision by the Constitutional Court of 2008 that the doctrine of issue preclusion was, in its proper sense, reinstated in Russian criminal law, barring facts definitively established in a civil trial from relitigation in criminal proceedings. Despite heavy criticism that came down on the Constitutional Court for what was seen by law enforcement agents as unwarranted judicial activism, the Russian Parliament soon amended the article in line with the interpretation offered by the Court. This, however, did not end the controversy as critics raised a valid point: an automatic transfer of facts from civil proceedings with a priori more lenient requirements of proof is likely to distort outcomes, harming defendants, the prosecution, and, ultimately, societal interests. This article will turn for apotential solution to common law, which has been able to avoid this problem by clearly distinguishing between different standards of proof applicable in civil v. criminal litigations. It will be shown, using the United States as an example, how courts can effectively use issue preclusion to pursue a number of legitimate objectives, such as consistency of judgments and judicial economy, with due account for the interests of parties in proceedings. At the same time, issue preclusion appears an inappropriate and ineffective means to combat arbitrariness of the judiciary – the end which Russia’s Constitutional Court and law makers arguably had in mind when introducing the doctrine into Russian law.