Constitutional Court only slightly trims High Council of Justice’s new powers
On 15 March the Constitutional Court issued its judgment on a submission from 53 National Deputies from BYuT (Tymoshenko’s bloc). It found only one of the three provisions of the new Law on the High Council of Justice in question unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court [CCU] ruled that the High Council of Justice does not have the right to demand copies of judicial cases from the courts before the court examination has been completed. According to the Head of the CCU, Anatoly Holovyn, “the demand by the High Council of Justice of any material from a court case carries with it an assessment of the procedural actions by the judge. Such an assessment before the handing down of a final verdict in the case is interference in the exercise of justice which runs counter to the Constitution.”
Kommersant – Ukraine received comment on this from Serhiy Kivalov, Party of the Regions National Deputy, who is both a member of the High Council of Justice and the Chair of the Verkhovna Rada on Justice Issues. He said that the CCU judgement was well-founded. “At some stage this norm was justified. But now the situation has changed, judges have become more qualified and are more responsible in their attitude to their work”.
According to BYuT National Deputy, Serhiy Vlasenko, “After the introduction of amendments to the Law on the High Council of Justice and the adoption of the Law on the Judicial System and Status of Judges, the High Council of Justice received a large number of unconstitutional means of influencing the judicial system and began actively using them. Today one of these unconstitutional methods was taken away from it.”
The Constitutional Court, however, found the other two norms appealed against to be constitutional. This means that acts of the High Council of Justice can only be appealed against in the High Administrative Court and that the High Council of Justice has the right to make decisions regarding violation by judges of their oath, including in cases involving non-observance of moral and ethical principles of behaviour.
Me Vlasenko does not agree with this judgment. This means, he says, that the Council may continue to dismiss judges for non-adherence to moral principle, “and that means for anything. If, for example, someone states that a judge behaved badly in a tram, that can already mean violation of his oath and he can be dismissed for that. Such a norm is an additional mechanism of control over judges by the High Council of Justice.
It should be noted that both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission have expressed concern over amendments restricting the powers of the Supreme Court and significantly extending the power of the High Council of Justice.