In April, 2019, Ryazan (city in Russia) journalist Mikhail Komarov complained about the female judge of the Tagansky court. In a complaint addressed to the chairman of the High Qualification Collegium of Judges of the Russian Federation( ru -ВККС) Komarov accused the judge of inappropriate appearance and affirmed that because of her “big bumped lips and a tight-fitting dress” he experienced strong sexual arousal, could not concentrate on the process and lost the trial with Roskomnadzor. Morover, his mouth was dry and he had to drink a lot of water, which was an excessive load on his kidneys.
At the end of the letter, Komarov asked to have a preventive conversation with the judge so that she no longer wears bright make-up before the sessions. However, according to the author no action was taken: the complaint paper was returned with the statement that neither specific violation was indicated in the work of the judge.
The Moscow City Court called Mikhail Komarov’s appeal “beneath men’s behavior” and despicable revenge for a lost cause. The court members fully sided with the judge: as the Court’s administration stated in the open report on their website, the appearance and behavior of the aforementioned judge didn’t fail or breach the rules of professional ethics carried out by the Ethics Commission of the Council of Judges of Moscow.
The Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of Russia, explained that it is not within its competence to consider complaints about the appearance of judges, and clarified that the judicial dress code is regulated by the Federal Law “On the judicial system of the Russian Federation” and the Law “On the status of judges in the Russian Federation”.
Elina Kashirina, a former judge, told Lente.ru that according the law “On the status of judges” each judge is given a set of two mantles: a summer gown of silk and a winter gown of wool. – The Code of Judicial Ethics says that the appearance should not diminish the honor and dignity of the judge,” says Kashirina. – This is a very blurred phrase, the message of which is simple: judges should be guided by common sense and understand who and where they are.
– The mantle of a judge is in fact a symbol of the state power, which testifies to the special status and authority of a judge before other participants of the process,” explained the judge of the Arbitration Court of the Moscow region, lawyer Dmitry Zatsarinsky. – That is why the law clearly established that the judges are obliged to wear the mantle at the time of the hearing and or reading the verdicts, or have another distinctive sign of their position. For other places (including when moving through the lobby of the court) the requirements for the appearance of judges are not directly prescribed anywhere: they are allowed to choose their own clothes.
There is another tacit rule in the courts that restricts the use of social networks. Direct management of accounts is not prohibited, but is controlled by the authorities. Every year judicial officers fill in forms where they specify in which social networks and under what names they are registered. This is an official procedure, at the request of the Judicial Department.
Pavel Chikov, a Russian public figure and head of the Agora International Human Rights Group, told Lente.ru that the restriction on the use of social networks for court officials was adopted after the scandal in 2011 with Buryat judge who posted a photo as if kissing the bottle of Juravli (cranes) vodka on one of her social networks. The picture turned into a scandal, and the judge was fired “for violation of professional ethics”.
– After this incident, there was a big behind-the-scenes change in the requirements for judges to maintain social networks,” explains Pavel Chikov. – Ultimately, they were simply forbidden to keep accounts. These are kind of recommendations, but they are mandatory. Now the refusal to inform superiors about accounts is considered as violation of the judge’s ethics. However, those who report about their social media pages, are being watched – and they may have claims for inappropriate publications.
The Lenta.ru interlocutor adds that the law “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation” provides several types of disciplinary proceedings for the court servants – from comment to early termination of the judge’s power. The Qualification Collegium of Judges decides how to punish a judge for inappropriate appearance.
Yet, there are no objective reasons to complain about the judge, and the letter of the law is formally observed. Just one of the participants in the process was dissatisfied with its outcome. And there comes the time to complain about the judge’s “improper appearance”.