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Zelensky’s judicial reform: Parliament downsizes Supreme Court

Besides, the Verkhovna Rada amended the order of establishment of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine
17:52, 16 October 2019

Vladimir Strumkovskij Facebook

The Verkhovna Rada adopted the presidential bill #1008 on the activity of the bodies of the judicial self-administration. 236 MPs supported this decision as 112 Ukraine reported.

Supreme Court

The law provides the downsizing of the Supreme Court from 200 up to 100 people and reducing of the basic wage from 75 to 55 subsistence minimums for able-bodied persons.

Head of the Supreme Court Valentyna Danylevska commented on the proposed improvements.

“I would like to not here that with the change of the Verkhovna Rada, with the change of the executive branch of power, the change of the president, the judicial branch will not be dissolved…The disciplinary proceedings proposed, reduced, with no provision of the possibility to the judge to prepare properly, will destroy the independence of the judicial system. And think please, does anybody need such judge in Ukraine?,”  Danylevska said.

She underlined that “not only reboot of the Supreme Court will influence the stability of the judicial system”.

Related: Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau search State Judicial Administration

High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ)

The bill downsizes the composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine from 16 to 12 members. The sum of the вознаграждения to HQCJ is established at the level of the base salary of the judge of the supreme specialized court.

It is established that the High Qualification Commission of Judges is the state collegial body of the judicial self-government.

Currently, 8 members of the HQCJ are appointed by the congress of judges, 2 by the congress of the representatives of the law universities, 2 by the congress of the lawyer, 2 by the ombudsman, 2 by the head of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine. The law introduces the competition, which will be held by the Supreme Justice Council instead of this system.

According to the document, a politically neutral citizen of Ukraine with at least 15-year job experience (and who speak the state language) is able to enter the HQCJ. The former members of the Supreme Justice Council cannot be selected for the HQCJ.

The law provides the stages of the competition. All applicants file the documents to the secretariat of the Supreme Justice Council; the special check toward the candidates should take place. The final decision toward each applicant will be made by the competition commission by open voting.  

Related: Zelensky signs bill on continuous service of National TV Council

The regulation on the competition will be approved by the Supreme Justice Council. The competition commission will also be created by the council; three people from the Council of Judges and three international experts will enter it.  

The commission will make decision by four votes; three of them should be of the international experts. The activity of the commission should also be financed at the expense of the international technical aid.

Currently, the HQCJ member might be dismissed by the commission itself or the member, which delegated the candidate. According to the bill, the Supreme Justice Council will be able to dismiss the member by the majority of the votes.

The new reason of the supposed dismissal of the HQCJ member is “the gross or systematic disregard of the obligations, non-observance of the ethical standards of the judge”.

Related: Parliament rejects bill on chemical castration for pedophiles, vetoed by president

Commission on Integrity and Ethic

The document provides the establishment of new body – the Commission on Integrity and Ethic. The collegial body at the Supreme Justice Council; it consists of three representatives of the council and three international experts (the participation of the last terminated in six years as the law comes into force).

The regulation of the Supreme Justice Council will establish the order of election and appointment of the members of the commission.

It is supposed that the commission will make decisions by the majority and if the votes for and against will be equal; the advantage is up to the international experts.

Related: Ukraine’s parliament unblocks signing of bills on cash registers, fines for illegally issued receipts

The main tasks of the commission are the estimation of the candidate in compliance with the principles of integrity and ethic norms of the judge during the special check; approval of the conclusions on the discrepancy (the candidate is not appointed in such case); monitoring of the information about the judges of the Supreme Court to expose the disciplinary offences; provision of the  submission on the dismissal of the member of the HQCJ and council.

The commission is provided with the right to request the documents and information as well as the access to the state registers.

The members of the commission should assume measures to protect the confidential information they got to know during the work.

Supreme Justice Council

The remuneration of the member of the Supreme Justice Council is established in the sum of the wage of the judge of the Supreme Court.

The member of the Supreme Council might be dismissed due to the non-observance of the ethic standards of the judge.  Such decision will be approved the Supreme Council of Justice on the basis of the submission from the Commission on Integrity and Ethic.

The bill establishes that the Supreme Justice Council makes decisions in the jury room only in particular cases; only if it leads to the disclosure of the secret guarded by the law; for prevention of the disclosure of the personal information of people who participate in the consideration of the disciplinary case.

Almost all norms of the law will come into force the next day after the official publication and the abolishment of the norms on the remuneration for successfully passed qualification assessment since the beginning of 2020.

Related: Government unveils text of the land market bill in Ukraine

The authorities of the HQCJ stops as the law comes into force.

The Supreme Justice Council should form new composition of the HQCJ during 90 days as well as confirm the personal composition of the Commission on Integrity and Ethic.

The Commission on Integrity and Ethic should check the members of the Supreme Justice Council within 30 days (except the head of the council).

As it was reported, on September 11, a number of provisions of the bill №1008 proposed by Volodymyr Zelensky were severely criticized by Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Ukraine Annika Weidemann and Canadian Ambassador Roman Vashchuk. Diplomats noted that the reduction of the number of judges of the Supreme Court is groundless, and the extension of lustration to members of the High qualification commission of judges of Ukraine is generally meaningless and ineffective. According to the ambassadors, the bill №1032 "On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine on Priority Measures for the Reform of the Prosecution Bodies" also needs serious revision.   

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