In 2016, the Сonstitutional amendments regarding judiciary cleared the way for the full-fledged judicial reform that, if properly implemented, will make the judiciary more independent and publicly accountable, and renew the judicial corps. Unprecedented formation of the entirely new Supreme Court, based on an open competition for all of the positions within the Court became a cornerstone of the total reboot of the judiciary.
Therefore, since the RPR has included establishment of a fair and effective Supreme Court as one of our top-priorities for 2017, we will closely monitor the selection process an provide the international community with the regular updates in the course of upcoming 1,5 months.
TIMELINE OF THE COMPETITION
According to the Law, the new Supreme Court should be operational by April 1, 2017.
1) In November 2016, a first round of the competition for 120 positions in the new Supreme Court was launched, gathering 846 applications: 76% judges and ex-judges, 24% attorneys and scholars.
2) After the prequalification stage (check of the compliance of candidates’ documents with data from public registers), 653 candidates were successfully admitted to the first round of the contest: the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ) screened 45% of attorneys, scholars, and candidates with the necessary cumulative length of service, whereas only 7% of the pool of judges have not been allowed to move to the next stage of the competition. Thus, only 189 candidates not affiliated with the judiciary were competing for the offices in the Supreme Court with 464 judges.
Our colleagues from the “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” movement have analyzed all 653 candidates running for offices in the Supreme Court (the full list of the candidates is available in Ukrainian HERE).
3) On February 16, anonymous testing of candidates for the positions at the new Supreme Court was held. After the first test the number of candidates decreased to 524 (Out of 464 judges, 67 failed the test, while 30 were rejected after the scrutiny or refused to take part; out of 189 attorneys and scholars, 18 failed the test, while 14 were rejected after the scrutiny or refused to take part).
4) Already on February 21, the candidates (367 judges and 157 attorneys and legal scholars) completed a writing assignment (development of a reasoned judicial decisions of the court of cassation) as part of their qualification assessment. The average score for every contestant should be announced approximately within 7-9 days – by the end of February. Maximum score for this phase is 120 points; the expected drop-out rate amounts to 50%.
5) Those who pass the threshold based on the results of written exams will be admitted to the next stage – testing of the moral and psychological qualities.
6) The final selection stage will take form of personal interviews.
A number of problems have been identified by the experts in the course of the competition, including the closed nature of the judicial system which sometimes results in a total lack of publicly available information about the candidates. Moreover, the HQCJ has failed to publish candidates’ profiles on the website as provided by the law. Free access to this information should enable public to identify timely suspicious facts in the biographies of the Supreme Court candidates and respectively pose uncomfortable questions during the interviews.
It is critically important to secure the selection process from any political influences and interferences. The Public Integrity Council (PIC) has issued a statement, calling on the political forces to refrain from lobbying “their” candidates to the judicial bodies or influencing the progress of the competition in any way. It supports an unbiased selection of the judges of the Supreme Court, which should bring new figures to this institution and create a new quality of justice with their practices and high moral standards.
Besides that, after the second part of the qualification assessment, PIC members found out that tasks for the practical assignment were not fictitious, but taken from the real life almost unchanged, while some individual competitors participated in the resolution of matters that provided the basis for the task. It means that some candidates received an unfair advantage in solving practical problems. The PIC is currently consulting with the HQCJ about how to resolve this situation.
Having analyzed the background of all the 653 candidates, the activists of “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” movement identified “seven sins” of the contestants – the criteria helping to make conclusions on the candidates’ professional integrity, which is one of the key selection criteria, as in the course of the competition the HQCJ can give for this criterion up to 250 points out of the total 1,000.
A detailed description of the most dubious profiles of the candidates corresponding to all the above listed “seven sins” is available HERE.