People’s judge

People’s judge (народний суддя; narodnyi suddia). The presiding official in a people’s court, the lowest court of the USSR judicial system. Judges were elected to five-year terms by residents of a raion or city, usually on the nomination of the Communist Party, although, in theory, other community and professional groups had the right to nominate candidates. Candidates had to be at least 25 years of age but were not formally required to have any legal training. Immediately after the Revolution of 1917 few people’s judges had any legal education. Later, most had a higher law degree. The people’s judge presided over a court that included two people’s assessors, but could hear some cases (eg, administrative wrongdoings) alone. The people’s judge could also initiate charges and legal proceedings. People’s judges were supposed to be independent of any external pressures and could not be charged with crimes, arrested, or dismissed except on the approval of the presidium of their republic’s Supreme Soviet. In reality, however, their decisions, particularly in political cases, were influenced strongly by Party and state authorities.

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

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