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A transitional mixed bag – High Qualification of Commission of Judges results

July 28, 2017

7th December 2016 witnessed the beginning of a vetting process for those wishing to become Supreme Court Judges – be they Civil, Criminal, Economic or Administrative.

From 1436 applicants, 653 were admitted to the competition, from which 625 eventually underwent assessment.

During the evaluation, participants of the competition completed professional and psychological tests, were scrutinised by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, and the Public Council for Integrity,   The Public Council for Integrity had a semi-veto on applicants requiring the Higher Qualification of Judges Commission to vote by 2/3rds to overturn that quasi-veto – and it did on numerous occasions.

Indeed, whilst the PCI continued to highlight lifestyles and assets far beyond applicant incomes, the HQCJ continued to demand proof of corruption.  In short the new Supreme Court will almost certainly not be staffed by those that passed every “sniff test” of a “reasonable person”.

A low moral and ethical bar thus apparently been set.

As a result more than 350 interviews took place for those seeking to fill the 120 vacancies.  The advantage of interview scores of course is that they are subjective and can therefore be used to artificially bolster otherwise distinctly average (or minimum acceptable) written examination scores.  The final, published candidate scores providing only a final overall candidate score.

Truth be told there are names on that final list, across all four categories for positions within the Supreme Court, that would make any reader familiar with them simply roll their eyes and express something similar to “FFS!”

However, the list (per final assessment and ranking scores) does also include some apparently morally upright and seemingly independent applicants.

To throw out the good (or at least potentially improved) composition of the Supreme Court in pursuit of the best is perhaps not the wisest policy – albeit disappointment should be recognised insomuch as some names simply should not be on that list if the process had not been manipulated along the way.

The results should perhaps be interpreted as transitional and a further reflection of a Ukrainian elite trying to slow societal progress for their benefit, but ultimately being dragged in the direction the vast majority of constituents want to go.

It is beyond doubt that this Presidential Administration is no more capable of surrendering control over the prosecutors and judiciary than any that came before it.  It is also clear that the current Presidential Administration is running out of wiggle room before it has to address progress that will curtail and/or infringe upon its own vested interests.

But

As with any transition this is to be expected.  It is the current reformers among the national, regional and local middle management working within a transitional regime that are learning the ropes and schemes and noisily fighting against it that are, ultimately, the future.  Civil society remains robust too.

Thus a similar view is perhaps required when looking at the results for the 120 vacancies within the Supreme Court.

Cynically a reader will expect the names that shouldn’t be on the judicial list but are, will somehow manage to (coincidentally) preside over cases requiring certain outcomes for certain circles within the elite.  “For my friends anything – for everybody else the law” will probably continue to be the Presidential Administration’s policy, but perhaps to a far lesser extent that recent Ukrainian history has witnessed as certain trends become apparent and associated public ire is made known.

However, as disappointing as it may be,”For everybody else the law” should perhaps be seen as (limited) progress if equal application of the law, and proportionate verdicts are the result.

Whether Lady Justice via a newly staffed Supreme Court will prove to be blind, and on balance more ethical, or whether it should fall upon its sword remains to be seen.

 

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