(Russian, sudebnaia kollegiia), in a broad sense, the composition of a court during the consideration of criminal and civil cases; in the USSR, an organizational subunit in most courts (except raion and city courts and military tribunals). Oblast, krai, and okrug courts and supreme courts of autonomous and Union republics have a judicial division for civil cases and a judicial division for criminal cases. The Supreme Court of the USSR has a military division as well (seeMILITARY COLLEGIUM).
The decisions rendered by the courts with respect to individual cases—except decisions by the raion, city, and people’s courts, the military tribunals, the court presidia, and the plenums of the court—originate in the judicial division of the appropriate court. The judicial divisions of the oblast, krai, and okrug courts and supreme courts of the autonomous republics act as courts of the first instance and as appellate courts. Those of the supreme courts of the Union republics consider, in the first instance, cases of particular importance or great social significance that they have accepted for consideration on their own initiative or on the initiative of the procurator of the republic. They are courts of second instance with respect to the oblast, krai, and okrug courts and supreme courts of the autonomous republics, and they are supervisory courts as well.
The judicial divisions of the Supreme Court of the USSR are empowered to consider, in the first instance, exceptionally important criminal and civil cases referred by law to their competence. By way of judicial supervision, they are empowered to consider protests made by the chairman of the Supreme Court of the USSR, the procurator-general of the USSR, and the deputies of these two officials against decisions and sentences rendered by the courts of the Union republics. As courts of first instance, judicial divisions consist of a chairman, deputy chairman or member of the court, and two people’s assessors. As courts of second instance, and when considering protests by way of judicial supervision, they consist of three members of the court.