People’s assessor

People’s assessor (гародний засідатель; narodnyi zasidatel). A lay judge elected to serve alongside a professional judge at every level of the court system of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Introduced in 1917 by the Soviets in place of juries, assessors (usually two per court) represented a form of popular participation in the judicial process. They had all the rights of judges: they participated in forming the verdict and selecting the punishment. They were elected for two and a half years by people’s assemblies at their workplaces or residences. Assessors of military tribunals were elected by soldiers at their military units. An assessor had to be at least 25 years of age but did not need to have any legal training or experience. Each court district keept a list of several hundred assessors, who were rotated to serve about one day a month in court.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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