Empty coffers and judicial dependence



Yury Zabara begins his article entitled “Judge Dependence” with a long quote from President Yanukovych’s address to newly-sworn in judges.  The words are up-beat about creating a judicial system which is accessible for all citizens and which means international standards.  The reality here and now is not so, as the author shows. “I don’t know who wrote that text but I would like to inform the President that in ordinary courts, for example, for two months now there have been no postage stamps. It is not clear when these will appear since there is not enough funding.

As a result, the parties in a case are not sent correspondence which is the court’s duty. Therefore court assistants spend their time ringing a party in the case and asking them to spend on the correspondence. People’s fate is thus dependent on a postal stamp. The fate also of judges since the new Law on the Judicial System and the Status of Judges [hereafter the Law]  has imposed not just strict, but unrealistic time limits regarding the running of a case.  They are impossible to keep, so by imposing them, the Law has in no way resolved the issue of workload on judges and the court apparatus.

The main thing is that the issue of timely and full financing for court proceedings has not been resolved.

The author notes that Article 4 § 4 does stipulate that the independence of the justice system is ensured via proper financing and organizational provisions.  The words are fine, but the money is lacking.

Yury Zabara mentions the recent highly publicized SBU [Security Service] operation during which four court officials of the Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv were detained for alleged bribe-taking.  Hurrah for the fight against corruption?  Bribe-taking is of course bad, but the author recommends considering the picture in all its aspects, including the fact that these court aides who, according to the law, need to have a higher law education, earn 960 UAH per month (less than 100 Euros). The same kind of salary is received by the secretary of a court hearing, the office staff … and the cleaners.  You can’t, he stresses, just oil one wheel of a machine, by finding decent pay for judges, when the others involved are earning a pittance.

Financial provisions for the courts are described well in Article 47, with material and social provisions for judges presented as ensuring judge independence. Article 129 of the Law on Judges’ Remuneration sets out the pay rises to be introduced by stages for judges of a local court, going from 6 times the minimum wage from 1 January 2011 to 15 times from 1 January 2015.

All this sounds fine, except that Article 129 only comes into force from 1 January 2012 (pursuant to 1.6 of the Final Provisions of the Law).

Thus as the basis for calculating judges’ pay the former rate of 332 UAH, established back in 2005, is taken. This is despite the fact that the Law states that “judges’ remuneration shall be regulated by this Law and cannot be defined by any other normative-legal acts”.

And yet it transpires that it can. Moreover, since 2005 the significant increase in all prices has in no way influenced judges’ pay.

From 2012 the Law removes the former norm on additional pay for qualification levels. This means that more experienced and highly-qualified judges will receive 20-30% less than before. Is this a paradox?  No, it’s ensuring independence of the justice system. Incidentally, a judge appointed for the first time to a local court can expect around 2, 200 to 2, 400 UAH in the hand (per month). There you have fighting corruption the Ukrainian way.

Abridged from the original article at #article

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