Lawyers pressed to work on posthumous Magnitsky trial

Little suspense about verdict in posthumous trial of lawyer Magnitsky

The history of posthumous trials, including the likes of Pope Fomosus, Joan of Arc and Nazi official Martin Borman, got even more bizarre last week when the preliminary hearing for a trial involving deceased Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky got underway.

The hearing had been postponed due to Magnitsky’s family and lawyers refusing to participate. Consequently, Russia appointed local lawyers Nikolai Gerasimov to represent Magnitsky and Kirill Goncharov to represent Bill Browder, founder of investment fund Hermitage Capital, who will be examined in absentia.

Virtually nothing is known about the lawyer pair except that they work out of Law Office No5 in Moscow’s Tverskoi district. As this is the area where the trial is taking place, both are obliged to participate. As Goncharov told newspaper Novaya Gazeta: “For this reason I can’t refuse to take part – my hands are tied.”

As members of the Moscow Bar Association, Goncharov and Gerasimov would face disbarment if they refused to participate.

“They’re in a difficult position. No lawyer would want to take on this case, but as chairman Henri Reznik has indicated, they’ll be struck off if they don’t,” one Russian lawyer tells The Lawyer.

According to online Russian judicial database RosPravosudie, both lawyers have handled dozens of criminal proceedings, although this trial will surely be their most unusual case to date. With less than 1 per cent of Russian criminal cases resulting in acquittal, the verdict seems easy to predict