On January 10, the draft law No.8342 was registered in the Verkhovna Rada.
The draft law provides for following changes:
- abolition of the Council of Judges as a separate judicial body and transfer of its powers to the High Council of Justice (HCJ);
- abolition of administrative positions in courts with transfer of powers of the head of the court to the assembly of judges or the head of the court apparatus. The position of the head of the Supreme Court is preserved.
According to the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC), such changes are justified. After all, today neither heads of courts nor the Council of Judges actually exercise powers that could not be transferred to other actors in the judicial system. Instead, it is thanks to them that the so-called “judicial mafia” retains its influence.
“Both heads of courts and the Council of Judges have become effective instrument of pressure on judges and preservation of mutual responsibility in the judicial system during the last decade. For instance, it was through the Council of Judges and heads of the court that judges received instructions on how to vote at congresses and whom to select to the High Council of Justice or the Constitutional Court”, AntAC’s expert Halyna Chyzhyk stated .
According to the draft law, powers of the Council of Judges to hold the congress of judges will be transferred to the HCJ. This step is in line with recommendations of the Venice Commission, which consistently gives pieces of advice for Ukraine to simplify the system of judicial governance. Most of organizational and administrative powers of the head of the court will be exercised by the head of the court apparatus.
At the same time, on January 11-13, the Council of Judges will hold the Congress of Judges. It should select 8 new members to the HCJ. Only if all 8 members are selected, it will be possible to resume the work of the HCJ and continue the judicial reform in Ukraine.
Thus, today the fate of the judicial reform depends on the Council of Judges. Its successful implementation is one of seven conditions that Ukraine must fulfill to open negotiations on the EU membership.
The AntAC and other NGOs will continue to monitor this process and hope that results of the congress will unblock further judicial reform in Ukraine.