Parliament provided an opportunity to solve certain problems of the judiciary
On June 18, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed several important laws related to the judiciary, including:
- “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the High Anti-Corruption Court” on the Allocation of Premises and Other Issues of the High Anti-Corruption Court” (No. 3348), which provides for the authority of the High Anti-Corruption Court (HAC) to manage state-owned property belonging to the scope of its administration (currently there is no such authority), as well as the election of investigative judges for up to two years with the possibility of their re-election (now investigative judges of the HAC are elected by the congress of judges for one year without the right for re-election for two consecutive terms);
- “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Debt Restructuring of the State Enterprise “Antonov” to Clarify Certain Issues of Debt Restructuring in order to create preconditions for providing premises to the High Anti-Corruption Court” (No. 3350), which provides for the transfer by “Antonov” company of a non-residential building located at 41 Peremohy Avenue in Kyiv to the sphere of management of a state body. This very building is already used by part of the HAC judges who administer justice there;
- “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning the Procedural Time Limits During Quarantine Established by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine for the Prevention of the Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)” (No. 3383), which stipulates that during the quarantine, procedural time limits shall not be renewed/continued by the court automatically, but only at the request of the party to the case.
1. Laws relating to the activities of the HAC may have a positive effect on its work. They unblock the solution of the problem of not providing the court with its own premises. According to the CPLR experts, securing the right of the Court to manage state-owned objects will allow it to carry out major repairs in the relevant premises, i.e. adapt them to the needs of the judiciary.
The possibility of electing investigating judges for two years with the right to re-election addresses the problem that may arise in September 2020, when the one-year term of office of investigating judges expires and according to the current law other judges are to be elected as investigating judges, which may adversely affect the efficiency of the hearings of the three HAC panels, as judges from such panels will in fact be forced to perform only the functions of an investigating judge, while former investigating judges will not be able to hear cases in which they have participated as investigating judges.
However, the original version of the draft law provided that investigating judges are elected for a term of three years (similar to judges of local general courts), but during the second reading, the legislator reduced this term. In addition, compared to the original version of the law, a number of provisions were removed that provided for the establishment of different requirements for candidates for the position of a judge of first instance (including the exclusion of the requirement for "special" work experience) and the HAC Appeals Chamber, as well as partial removal of restrictions for them (for example, granting the right to become a judge of the HAC to former officers of the law enforcement bodies, the prosecutor's office, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine).
2. The law on the duration of procedural terms in quarantine conditions should solve the problem of “freezing” of justice, which arose on April 2, after almost all procedural terms were automatically extended for the duration of the quarantine. The adopted law stipulates that during the quarantine the procedural terms shall be renewed/extended by the court at the request of a person, if the court recognizes that the impossibility of their observance is due to quarantine restrictions.
Compared to the original version, the adopted law eliminates some shortcomings, which were pointed out by the CPLR experts. According to the original version of the draft law, the court renewed/extended the procedural terms for the entire period of quarantine, without taking into account the actual time required by the party to perform the relevant procedural action. Another important clarification that was introduced is that the reasons for non-compliance with procedural terms should be related to quarantine restrictions, which will prevent the abuse of this institution in practice.