The system of arbitration courts is organizationally divided into four levels.
The first level is made up of the federal arbitration courts of the subjects of the Russian Federation. They comprise the arbitration courts of republics, territories, regions, cites of federal significance, autonomous areas and autonomous regions. They hear cases as courts of the first instance. There are 82 first instance arbitration courts.
The second level is represented by arbitration appellate courts. Under the Federal constitutional law No. 2-FCZ of 25.03.2004 «On Introducing Amendments and Addenda into the Federal Constitutional Law on Arbitration Courts in the Russian Federation», 20 such courts are to be formed by the end of 2005. The arbitration appellate courts fully reexamine cases on appeals against the decisions that have passed by the first instance courts but have not yet come into legal force.
The third level is formed by 10 federal district arbitration courts, each of which functions as a court of cassation with regard to a group of arbitration courts making up one court circuit. These courts as cassation instance in their districts check the legality of the decisions passed by arbitration courts and having entered into legal force, from the viewpoint of correctness of the application of the norms of substantive and procedural law.
The fourth level is represented by the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation, that is the superior judicial body for deciding commercial disputes, and other cases handled by the arbitration courts, it supervises their activity and issues explanations on matters of judicial practice.
The internal procedure of the activity of the arbitration courts and interrelations among such courts are regulated by the Arbitration Courts Rules of procedure, adopted by the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation, which are binding upon all lower arbitration courts.
The structure of the arbitration courts at different levels is determined by their functions and the case-flow.
The federal district arbitration courts comprise the presidium of the federal district arbitration court, a judicial collegium for the examination of disputes arising from civil and other legal relations and a judicial collegium for the examination of disputes arising from administrative legal relations.
The arbitration courts of the subjects of the Russian Federation comprise the presidium and judicial panels, some judicial collegia may also be formed. The presidiums of the all arbitration courts of the Russian Federation approve, upon presentation by their chairmen, members of the judicial collegia and chairmen of the judicial panels of the relevant courts, they also consider other questions relating to the work organization of the courts and judicial practice.
Presently, the arbitration courts in Russia examine more than one million cases a year. These cases deal in particular with disputes concerning sales contracts, property, taxes and evaluation of acts of taxation bodies, insolvency (bankruptcy), loan contracts, insurance, legal acts of state authorities and other bodies as well as many others.
Тhe main tasks of the arbitration courts are protection of the violated or disputed rights and legitimate interests of enterprises, offices, organizations and private citizens in the sphere of entrepreneurial and other economic activity, as well as participation in the enhancement of legality and in delicti prevention in this area.
The activity of the arbitration courts in the Russian Federation is based on the principles of legality, independence of judges, the equality of organizations and individuals before law and court, adversary character and legal equality of parties, the openness of hearings, etc.
The binding character of execution of the judicial decisions passed by the arbitration courts and having entered into force, is of great importance for their realization. The failure to execute judicial decisions, resolutions and rulings handed down by arbitration courts is regarded as contempt of court and entails liability envisaged by the law.
The arbitration courts of the Russian Federation during the period of thirteen years have heard about six and a half million cases. The annual average increase of the case-flow has reached 18-20 percent.
In 2004, the number of considered cases run up to 1,215,627, that is about 40 per cent more than in 2003. The scale of cases has increased expressively. The volume of property claims filed in the year of 2004 has come to 1098 billion rubles.
The disputes arising from administrative legal relations demonstrate a much quicker raise. In 2003, they constituted only 51.2 per cent of the overall case-flow and in 2004, the share of such cases exceeded 67 per cent.
The caseload for the judges has grown up as a consequence of the increasing volume of work exercised by the arbitration courts. It is equal now to 55 cases per month for a judge.
The statistics makes it possible to ascertain firmly, that the system of economic justice represented in Russia by the arbitration courts, has taken its place and has won the confidence of businesses during a rather short period of time.