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Working paper

Why Dismiss a Good Case? Dual-Purpose Judicial Institutions in Constitutional Courts Under Autocracy: Evidence from Russia

Higher School of Economics Research Paper. WP BRP 60/PS/2018. Higher School of Economics, 2018. No. 60/PS/2018.
The Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) has over time developed a practice of adopting so-called “positive dismissals” (Pozitivnoe Opredelenie) which complements (but also undermines) the existent formal procedure of only delivering decisions on merits with Rulings (Postanovlenie). The paper explores the uses of this peculiar practice. I show that Positive Dismissals are used by the Court to overcome the rigidity of the formal procedure where this is necessary for reasons of intraorganizational or political expediency. To do that I construct and analyze quantitatively a unique comprehensive dataset of all decisions handed down by the RCC roughly in the first two decades of its existence (1995-2015, N=22334). I show that “positive dismissals” are used whenever the case is deemed too important to be simply dismissed (for example, if it is submitted by a powerful petitioner), or when the Court cannot dismiss a case but wants to keep low profile to avoid political risks (for example, with the politically salient cases during election years).