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October

Political Points of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform include a weekly expert analysis of the most important processes in Ukraine in areas of constitutionalism, political parties and elections, governance and public administration reform, judiciary, combatting corruption, criminal justice, etc.

If you want to receive expert Points for the last week of the current month every Tuesday by mail, please send an e-mail to doboni@pravo.org.ua (Mariana Doboni, Сommunication manager).

Political Points for 21 – 28 October 2019

Political Points for 30 September – 4 October 2019

 

Political Points for 21 – 28 October 2019

Draft law submitted by the President does not solve the problem of overload of the Supreme Court

1. CPLR expert opinion

On October 16, the Parliament passed the law “On Amending the Law of Ukraine “On Judicial System and Status of Judges” and some laws of Ukraine on the activity of judicial governance bodies” (draft law No. 1008, initiated by the President). Along with the positive changes (rebooting the High Qualifications Commission of Judges and verification of existing members of the High Council of Justice with the involvement of international experts) the law contains an unjustified requirement to halve the number of judges of the new Supreme Court (from 200 to 100). Having no objections against the need to dismiss some of this court’s judges due to the lack of integrity, the Centre's experts believe that in the context of a significant burden on this court and in the absence of certain reduction procedures, this measure may have a negative effect on the users of court services and on the independence of judges with good faith reputation.

2. Respective authorities counter-point/argument

On October 25, the President introduced a draft law on amending the procedural codes in order to improve the review of judicial decisions under appeal and cassation procedures (No.2314).

Among other things, the draft law aims to reduce the burden on the Supreme Court. The draft law provides for additional restrictions on the admissibility of cassation complaints. The Supreme Court can open the cassation proceedings only if:

  • the Court of Appeal applied the law in the contested decision, by ignoring the position of the Supreme Court;
  • the complainant substantiates the need to deviate from the previously stated position of the Supreme Court;
  • there is no position of the Supreme Court on the application of the law in certain legal relationships;
  • the court's decision is appealed based on the grounds provided for the mandatory cancellation of the decision;
  • the disciplinary authority brought to disciplinary responsibility the judges who were members of the panel of the Court of Appeal, which decided the case if their conduct was committed in connection with the consideration of such a case.

In civil and commercial matters, if the cost of the claim is 500 subsistence wages (more than UAH 1 million) or less, the Supreme Court will be able to open the cassation proceedings when it recognizes that the case is of fundamental importance for the law enforcement practice or for the society, or for the appellant or in some other situations.

3. CPLR assessment of the authorities counter-point

These provisions will not significantly reduce the number of cases in the new Supreme Court.

First, they do not relate to existing cases (including thousands of cases that have been transferred from previous Supreme and High Courts).

Second, in most cases in a cassation appeal, it is sufficient to refer to the absence of a legal opinion of the Supreme Court on a specific issue in order for the claim to be taken into consideration.

Third, the draft law introduces a new ground for cassation appeal (bringing judges of the Court of Appeal who made a decision to disciplinary responsibility in this regard).

Fourth, in any case in civil and commercial matters, if the cost of the claim is up to 500 subsistence wages, the Supreme Court must decide on the admissibility of the cassation instance, as the Court does today. This provision does not affect the administrative cases that are most prevalent in the Supreme Court.

4. Related legislation/instructions which require the authorities act in a certain manner

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5. CPLR expert suggestions on how to fix the problem using the legal instruments available in Ukraine

The draft law contains a number of useful provisions (they are not analyzed here, as most of them are outside the scope of the purpose of the draft law), and it is therefore advisable to support it with further finalization.

At the same time, the implementation of the law will not significantly reduce the number of cases in the Supreme Court, and therefore will not prevent the problems stipulated by the Law "On Amending the Law of Ukraine "On Judicial System and Status of Judges" and certain laws of Ukraine regarding the activity of judicial governance bodies". The urgency of reviewing the provisions introduced by this Law remains (regarding the reduction of the Supreme Court, the weak role of international experts, the possibility of appealing the decisions of the competition and ethics commissions to the politicized District Administrative Court of Kyiv instead of the Supreme Court).

Reduction of the Supreme Court may be a strategic goal to ensure consistent practice, but it requires strengthening the courts of appeal, improving the quality of their activity, and naturally reducing the number of cassation appeals and cases in the Supreme Court.

 

Profile parliamentary committeedid not support the draft law on eliminating the corruption scheme in the field of registration of information on real estate appraisal reports (No. 2047)

1. CPLR expert opinion

In 2018, the Tax Code of Ukraine was amended to introduce electronic “intermediary sites” between property appraisers and the electronic database of the State Property Fund in Ukraine. The only function of these "sites" is the transfer of data, and for this service, they receive from 500 to 1800 UAH on each operation, which makes a daily income of about one million hryvnia.

On September 4, the people’s deputies from Holos and Sluha Narodu factions registered a draft law No. 2047 in Parliament, which provided for the elimination of this corruption scheme. However, on October 18, the Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy did not endorse the draft law.

2. Respective authorities counter-point/argument

An alternative draft law No. 2047-1 prepared by 19 people’s deputies from the political party Sluha Narodu was registered. It consolidates the monopoly of electronic “sites” and extends their powers, creating a two-tier system without involving appraisers. After the failure of the draft law No. 2047 by the Committee and the submission of an alternative No.2047-1, a group of parliament members was suspected of unlawful benefiting from the failure of the draft law No. 2047 and trying to preserve existing corruption schemes in this area.

3. CPLR assessment of the authorities counter-point

It is inadmissible to maintain a corruption scheme with electronic platforms and to expand their powers.

4. Related legislation/instructions which require the authorities act in a certain manner

Constitution of Ukraine, Law of Ukraine “On the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”.

5. CPLR expert suggestions on how to fix the problem using the legal instruments available in Ukraine

The committee should review its decision and recommend the draft law No. 2047 for further consideration in the first reading, or ensure the development of a new draft law that would eliminate the corruption scheme with electronic "intermediary sites" participating in the appraisal of property for sale.

 

Political Points for 30 September – 4 October 2019

Draft Law on Judicial Governance Reform Prepared for Second Reading: Substantial Changes, Shortcomings, Controversies

1. CPLR expert opinion

On September 12, the Parliament adopted in the first reading the draft law “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Activity of Judicial Governance Bodies”, which provided for:

  • dissolution of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine (hereinafter – the HQCJ) and the formation of a new composition of the High Council of Justice (hereinafter – the HCJ) under the new rules, with the participation of international experts and members of the Council of Judges of Ukraine;
  • establishment of the Integrity and Ethics Commission by involving the HCJ members and international experts, which will monitor the integrity of the HCJ and HQCJ members;
  • expediting the handling of disciplinary cases against judges;
  • reduction of the number of Supreme Court judges (down to 100 judges);
  • reduction of the remuneration level for the Supreme Court judges and members of the HCJ and the Supreme Court of Justice;
  • lustration of the heads of the HQCJ and the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine.

Before the vote in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the CPLR experts analyzed in detail the key innovations contained in the draft law and concluded that the draft contains significant risks of increasing the political dependence of judges and the manageability of the judicial corps.

2. Respective authorities counter-point/argument

While considering the draft law, the Committee on Legal Policy took into account part of the recommendations outlined in the CPLR's opinion and made other significant changes to the provisions of the draft law, in particular:

  • possibility of updating the current composition of the HCJ is foreseen, since the integrity of its members must be verified by the Integrity and Ethics Commission, and a decision on the dismissal of a HCJ member may be adopted based on the results of the verification;
  • powers of the Integrity and Ethics Commission have been expanded to give it the right to:
  • bring the judges of the Supreme Court to disciplinary responsibility (within 6 years) and to file a submission for their dismissal;

  • carry out a verification of candidates for the HCJ and the HQCJ on their compliance with the principles of integrity (possibly, the text of the draft law contains a technical mistake, since, based on its content, the Commission is entitled to verify the integrity) and the ethical standards of the judge. In the event of non-compliance with these criteria by a candidate, the HCJ may approve a conclusion that prevents a person from being appointed to the respective position;

  • consider, in conjunction with the HCJ, a submission of the Integrity and Ethics Commission on the dismissal of a HCJ member. In this context, a mandatory requirement for the rejection of the submission is that it should be supported by at least two international experts-members of the Commission;

  • regulatory framework for the Integrity and Ethics Commission’s activities has been improved, in particular, its rights, which the staff of the Secretariat of the Commission are given, have been specified;
  • eliminated the potential for the HCJ members involved in the Integrity and Ethics Commission to block its activities, since the decision of the Commission is considered to have been adopted if it was voted in by a majority of the members attending the meeting (rather than the general membership as provided in the original version). International experts as the members of the Commission play a key role in decision-making, since, with equality of votes, their votes are crucial;
  • right of the HQCJ to approve its own Rules of Procedure independently has been retained;
  • periods for disciplinary proceedings have been extended (from 30 days to 60 days);
  • provision on lustration of the heads of the HQCJ and the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine has been excluded.

3. CPLR assessment of the authorities counter-point

Despite a number of positive changes, the committee's revision of the draft law before the second reading left it with provisions that present significant risks and problems, including:

  • the number of HQCJ members should be reduced to 12. Given the current and projected workload on the commission, reducing the number of its members will inevitably lead to a decrease in its efficiency and delays in the ongoing procedures (first of all, qualification assessments);
  • requirement that a candidate for the HQCJ be affiliated with the legal profession can be interpreted as being exclusive to judges, prosecutors and lawyers, that is, representatives of those systems in need for reforms. This provision may be used to prevent the entry of the agents of change to the Commission;
  • significant control of the HCJ over the activities of the HQCJ has been retained, in particular, the HQCJ independently approves only its own Rules of Procedure, while the regulations defining the procedure for passing exams and their assessment, the procedure and methodology of qualification assessment, etc., are approved by the HCJ on the submission of the HQCJ;
  • disputes over the formation of the HQCJ have not been brought out of the jurisdiction of the “notorious” District Administrative Court of Kyiv, whose chairman and judge are suspected of attempting to block the conduct of a qualification assessment and interference with the HQCJ;
  • reduction in the staff number of the Supreme Court judges (from 200 to 100) in the absence of clear criteria and the procedure for the selection of judges to remain can be used for political purposes to get rid of disloyal judges;
  • provision stipulating that the Integrity and Ethics Commission is composed of 3 HCJ members has been retained. Consequently, there is a conflict of interest in the activities of the Commission immediately laid down in the text of the draft law, since it is supposed to check the integrity of all members of the HCJ (except the Chairman of the Supreme Court), that is, those who are part of it;
  • disciplinary procedure has not changed significantly. Although the term of disciplinary proceedings has been doubled compared to the original version (from 30 to 60 days), without improving and simplifying the mechanism of bringing to disciplinary responsibility, the periods of disciplinary proceedings can be used by judges to evade responsibility.

The text of the draft law contains a number of defects that make it impossible to fully implement the proposed mechanisms, namely:

  • the draft law stipulates the right of the Integrity and Ethics Commission to assess the candidates for the HQCJ. However, in order to check the integrity of such candidates, the draft law provides for another Selection Commission for the HQCJ members, which also includes 3 international experts. The draft law does not specify the mechanism for the involvement of the Integrity and Ethics Commission in the selection of the HQCJ members, in particular whether it has the right to approve conclusions on the candidate's nonconformity with the criteria or the legal status of such assessment issued by the Commission;
  • the draft law stipulates that the term of disciplinary proceedings should not exceed 60 days from the date of receipt of the disciplinary complaint. However, the draft law does not amend Part 13 of Art. 49 of the Law of Ukraine “On the High Council of Justice”, which stipulates that a disciplinary chamber shall consider a disciplinary case within 90 days from the date of its opening and this term may be extended.

4. CPLR expert suggestions on how to fix the problem using the legal instruments available in Ukraine

Draft law No. 1008 should be returned for another second reading.