Harriman Institute

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Manipulated Justice in Russia: Influence in Prosecutions and Conflict Resolution

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join us for an event in our Rule of Law in Autocracy: The Legal Dimension of Russian Politics speaker series, a presentation by Peter H. Solomon (University of Toronto).

This event is supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

It is now fashionable to portray the administration of justice in the Russian Federation through the prism of the “dual state.” This metaphor suggests that while some criminal and civil cases shows signs of outside and/or inappropriate influence, the vast majority of cases are handled in a normal, routine way, albeit with possible biases. In Peter H. Solomon’s view, this perspective is both accurate and useful, but it raises the question of which cases or types of cases fall into the first group and how attempts at influence work in practice. Terms like “political” or “politicized” or “high-profile” only beg the question, for they too are murky and have multiple understandings.

In this talk Solomon will start by identifying common characteristics of the process of influencing cases, regarding the instigators, targets, mechanisms, and contingencies, and refer to incidents that have become public knowledge. He will then explore three categories of cases that at least sometimes feature attempts at influence: prosecutions targeting government officials and other high-profile persons; prosecutions relating to the regulation of politics (protest, speech); and cases relating to business disputes and predation of business by law enforcement.


Peter H. Solomon, Jr. 
is Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Law and Criminology at the University of Toronto and Member of its Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, where he teaches on law and politics in Russia. His books include Soviet Criminal Justice under Stalin (Cambridge, 1996), and in Russian as Sovetskaia iustitsiia pri Staline (1998 and 2008 by ROSSPEN), Reforming Justice in Russia, 1864‑1996: Power, Culture, and the Limits of Legal Order (editor; Sharpe, 1997), and Courts and Transition in Russia: The Challenge of Judicial Reform (with Todd Foglesong, Westview, 2000). In the new millennium his research has focused on judicial reform in Russia and Ukraine, where he participates in reform projects (e.g. for the World Bank, OSCE, and the Canadian International Development Agency) as well as on criminal law, procedure, and justice in authoritarian and transitional states. His recent publications include: “Law and Courts in Authoritarian States,” in the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behaivoral Sciences, 2nd edition (electronic); and ‘Post-Soviet Criminal Justice: The Persistence of Distorted Neo-inquisitorialism,” Theoretical Criminology, 19:2 (2015). He is on the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Law and Public Policy (Moscow) and the editorial boards of four journals and a former director of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies.

Rule of Law in Autocracy: The Legal Dimension of Russian Politics

2021 Speaker Series

In authoritarian political systems, institutions such as parliament, judiciary, and law enforcement are typically viewed as mere instruments of autocratic rule, or at best, a democratic facade. In this conventional image, authoritarian institutions exist only for formal reasons and do not exert meaningful impact independently of the executive branch of government.

But recent scholarship has uncovered unexpected dynamics of the impact of law on Russian politics. Authoritarian influence over the diverse legal institutions is not as overwhelming as conventional wisdom has presumed. Scholars instead are revealing how authoritarian legal and judicial institutions resemble their democratic counterparts, including in their response to bureaucratic incentives and public opinion, or in being driven by the metrics of performance evaluation rather than central directives. Learn more about the series >>

All events at 12:00pm ET.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 2021
Manipulated Justice in Russia: Influence in Prosecutions and Conflict Resolution

Peter H. Solomon, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Law and Criminology at the University of Toronto and Member of its Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2021
Watching the Detectives—Strategies and Tactics of Police Oversight in Russia

Lauren A. McCarthy, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science and Director of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2021
Bulldogs in the Duma: Executive Factionalism and Lawmaking in Russia

Ben Noble, Lecturer in Russian Politics at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies

THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 2021
Judicial Independence in Russia: What Do Russians Think?

Kathryn Hendley, Roman Z. Livshits & William Voss-Bascom Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 2021
Adaptation and Pragmatism: Explaining the Survival of the Russian Constitutional Court

Alexei Trochev, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Political Science and International Relations at Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

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