From June 1, a system for automatically recording traffic violations to come into force. Lawyers say that the imposition of a fine can be challenged, since the immediate entry of a court decision is illegal, and video recording is not always reliable evidence of a violation.
But after the new Supreme Court ruling comes into force, many Ukrainians will probably find it cheaper to pay a fine than to challenge it. Administrative penalties for driving with a faulty brake, without numbers, on a red light will be less than the court fee. It will be “cost-effective” to assert their rights only if larger fines are imposed, for example, for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The same goes for a series of “quarantine fines.”
Why has the policy of the Supreme Court changed, is it possible to circumvent the new rules and how to return the paid court fee?
Until 2011, there was no court fee in Ukraine at all. There were a voluntary contribution and the so-called state duty. People who were involved in appealing the decisions did not pay this fee. But then MPs adopted the Law "On Court Fee", which significantly complicated the lives of ordinary citizens, but facilitated the work of the courts. The collection was supposed to reduce the amount of red tape, to protect the courts from millions of lawsuits by litigants who like to argue about and without reason.
The 2019 Supreme Court ruling explicitly states: “The purpose of recovering legal aid costs is not only compensation to the party in whose favor the decision was made, but also, in a certain sense, encouraging the entity to refrain from submitting unsubstantiated applications, complaints ...” Therefore, each subsequent stage of the trial in court is becoming more expensive. The appeal is subject to a court fee of 110% of the court fee in the first instance, cassation - 120%. And in the Supreme Court, the amount grows to 130%.
In fact, by its decision, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court settled the conflict not in favor of citizens, returning the situation to 2011. They emphasized: "In cases concerning an appeal against decisions of an administrative offense, articles 2-5 of the Law of Ukraine" On Judicial Collection "should be applied, which do not provide for benefits."
Today, only those consumers who defend their rights can pay the court fee, those who are suing for the collection of alimony, try to obtain compensation for material damage, persons with disabilities of groups I and II, Chornobyl victims of categories I and II, and military personnel.
Now, when appealing against any "administrative" you need to pay 15 USD. This applies not only to drivers, but also to quarantine violators who did not provide markings in their trading planes or, for example, visit public places without protective equipment. Also, the new rules will affect those who encroach on public order or on someone else’s property, violators in the field of agriculture.
"The Code of Administrative Procedure gives a person the right to appeal against the actions of state authorities. The Supreme Court has placed itself above the law, prohibiting ordinary communities from access to justice, which, of course, is abnormal. It turns out, a priori, every person regardless of whether he’s guilty should pay this money. This is a violation of constitutional human rights," says Yaroslav Kuts, lawyer of the A2kt association.
The lawyer emphasizes: when trying to appeal a fine, a person actually bears financial responsibility twice for offenses, since he is forced to pay a court fee. Kuts is convinced that the restrictive approach itself is fundamentally wrong. The judicial system should fulfill its main function, that is, protect the rights of citizens, and not try to reduce the burden on the courts.
By the way, the Supreme Court itself was not integrated into its approach. Several judges involved in the trial signed a dissenting opinion on the illegality of the decision.
Will the decision of the Armed Forces be enforced en masse?
Lawyers doubt that the practice of considering cases only after collecting the fee will be rampant. But many will definitely take note of it.
“In my opinion, this ingenious decision of the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court (without Ukraine) should not be applied by other courts. After all, the ingenious court of scientists and theoretical lawyers wrote that this is a specific situation in a particular case. And, of course, their deep thought, set forth in the sentence "with a systematic, targeted and grammatical interpretation of the legislative regulation of relations cited" can in no way be considered a legal position in a state based on the rule of law,” lawyer Rostyslav Kravets comments.
Bill 3424 is called to rectify the situation. It prescribed that there is no need to pay for appealing against rulings in cases of administrative offenses. The main scientific and expert department of the Verkhovna Rada approved this initiative. Experts believe that it is unfair to oblige people who go to court not of their own free will to pay any fees.
However, even if the law is adopted, it will not solve all the problems. Yaroslav Kuts emphasizes that the previous decisions of the Supreme Court are doubtful. For example, the court decided that tax disputes are property and ordered to pay a fee as a percentage of the amount of accrued liabilities. Although fines cannot be imposed on small and medium-sized enterprises during quarantine, entrepreneurs receive letters of fines retroactively, which are often also less than the court fee.
So far, the bill has not been passed; fees will have to be paid. Otherwise, it may reach the blocking of bank accounts. You can pay the court fee here.
However, if you win the court, theoretically you will have to get the money back. To do this, you must submit an application to the Treasury, along with a court order and a document confirming the transfer of funds to the budget, indicate the reasons for the return, identification number, your contacts, payment amount, and account details for crediting funds. You can also determine the trustee for the return of the fee if you attach to the application a notarized power of attorney and a copy of the passport of the trustee.
If all over the world the court fee is a filter from a pile of applications, then in Ukraine it is also a source of filling the budget. Due to the court fee in the country, they not only cut off paperwork but also finance the judicial system through the special fund of the state budget. It was originally planned that it should make the courts independent and technically secure.
The means of judicial collection are allocated "to ensure the implementation of the judicial proceedings and the functioning of the judiciary, as well as to ensure the architectural accessibility of court buildings, the availability of information posted in court for certain groups of the population."
The head of the Supreme Court, Valentyna Danyshevska, announced a possible collapse of the judicial system due to a lack of finance. If last year 520 million USD and 23 million USD were allocated to the judicial branch, then this year it’s almost 167 million less. The High Council of Justice also requests an increase in court costs.
In the context of such a statement, the decision of the Supreme Court looks very logical. By abolishing additional benefits, the judicial branch, first of all, takes care of its own food. The courts really have no money for postage stamps, envelopes. The premises must be reconstructed and completed. As of the end of March, the salary fund for judges and court staff is 80% underfunded.
You might think that due to the massive collection of additional fees from taxpayers, the problem will really be solved. But there are big doubts – court fee has existed for a long time, and practice shows that cases are not considered faster, and additional shops in the corridors of the courts do not appear.
Rostyslav Kravets is sure that the massive collection of court fees will not at all improve the service of Ukrainians in the courts. From the moment when the rate of collection for complaints about actions of government bodies was only 0,15 USD, and the dissolution lawsuit cost 0,32 USD, the fee grew, but the quality of the services provided did not increase.
Many appeal to the fact that abroad the collection is much higher, there are less preferential categories. So, for consideration of the appeal in the district court, it is necessary to pay approximately 170 USD. But in the UK the minimum wage is 1,600 USD, and in Ukraine, it is 170 USD. So the ratio of the cost of these services is about the same. But at the same time, the effectiveness of courts in Ukraine and in Britain cannot be compared.
Not all Ukrainians can pull the current fees. For example, displaced pensioners who were suspended payments had to pay 320 UAH for going to court, which amounted to about half of their monthly payments. But the IMF memorandum contains a clause on the constant increase of the court fee, and we, like a number of other obligations, blindly fulfill it, even if it is harmful to Ukrainian citizens.
Perhaps the Supreme Court will still change its position, as it has done repeatedly. But without amending the Law "On court fees" we still cannot do. And, of course, a high-quality judicial reform is necessary so that the functioning of the courts does not depend directly on the court fee, and citizens feel protected.