Draft law #1008: on its way to the second reading

Yesterday the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy considered amendments to the draft law #1008 on judicial self-governance bodies. Mykhailo Zhernakov, Chairman of the Board of the DEJURE Foundation, and advocacy manager Stepan Berko attended the committee's meeting and analyzed committee's decisions.

Generally, the positives of the bill are:

  1. Renewal of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ) will take place following a competitive procedure with the crucial role of the international partners.
  2. The decisions of the Ethics Commission will be reviewed by the HCJ with the crucial role of the international experts, following the model that worked during the selection process to the High Anti-Corruption Court. To overturn the Ethics Commission's decision, a joint meeting of the HCJ and the Ethics Commission is required and at least 2 international experts should agree to reject the decision.
  3. The relaunched HQCJ will keep the right to establish its own Rules of Procedure. Rules will not be approved by the HCJ.
  4. The Ethics Commission will review the integrity of all members and candidates of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, High Council of Justice and the judges of the Supreme Court within 6 years.
  5. The Ethics Commission, within 30 days of its establishment, will assess the integrity of the current members of the HCJ.

Still, there were some negative provisions:

  1. The composition of the Supreme Court will be reduced to 100 judges and the selection procedure will be determined by a non-renewed High Council of Justice. This increases the risk that the SC will be subdued and controlled by the political establishment through the unreformed HCJ.
  2. The decisions of the Competition and Ethics Commissions with international experts can be appealed to the odious District Administrative Court of Kyiv, which can block or annul all the decisions.

— The committee's decision to give a key role in renewing the High Judicial Qualifications Commission and the High Council of Justice to international experts brings some optimism. The participation of international experts allowed to throw out the most odious candidates during the competition to the High Anti-Corruption Court. We hope that the Parliament will support the committee-approved amendments and we will be able to see a real renewing of the judicial administration bodies responsible for the selection and dismissal of judges.

At the same time, the right to appeal the decisions of commissions with international experts to the notorious District Administrative Court of Kyiv, as well as determining the selection procedure of new Supreme Court judges by not-renewed HCJ, may put a cross on these positive novations. We hope that Parliament will fix it.

Mykhailo Zhernakov

Chairman of the Board of the DEJURE Foundation

Generally, whatever the final edition of the #1008 bill is, this will only be a half-step. Further reform is needed, especially the total relaunch of the HCJ, as suggested in the Agenda for Justice supported by several parliamentary parties, including the ruling party Sluha Narodu. This would most probably require the Constitutional amendments.