The USAID New Justice Program held a regular Rule of Law Donors and Implementers Meeting. During the meeting, Head of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges (HQC) Sergii Koziakov shared with the event participants the experience and results of conducting the second competition for judicial positions in the Supreme Court, the newly established High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), as well as the problems identified during these competitions.
The Head of the HQC noted that the complex innovative procedure for selecting judges of the Supreme Court and HACC in the framework of judicial reform is aimed at ensuring the objectivity and transparency of the competition for judicial positions to select the most professional candidates of the highest integrity. He emphasized that candidates for judicial positions in the mentioned courts for the first time in the history of Ukraine were considered based on the results of open competition. Additionally, a comparative analysis of similar experiences from 45 countries shows that not a single judicial system in the last 30-40 years has experienced conducting such two large contests at the same time.
Mr. Koziakov told what efforts the Commission had to make for the process to take place as scheduled and in accordance with international standards for judicial selection.
After submission of documents, before the candidates were admitted to the qualification evaluation, each of them was checked for compliance with the qualification requirements prescribed by law for candidates for these positions. At this stage, according to the HQC Head, not all candidates have been able to confirm that they had the required experience in a particular area. The admitted to the competition applicants sat for the exam, which consisted of anonymous written test and a case study, which included writing a draft court decision. Thus, upon the results of the examination, 235 of the 566 candidates for judicial positions in the Supreme Court and 113 of the 270 candidates for judicial positions in the HACC were admitted to the stage of interviews with HQC members. “We gave the candidates very hard assignments,” commented this statistics Sergii Koziakov. He also added that Ukraine is the only country in the world that broadcasted online the interviews with all, without exception, candidates for judicial positions of the Supreme Court and HACC.
Additionally, when verifying whether the candidates to the Supreme Court complied with the criteria of integrity and professional ethics, the HQC co-operated with the Public Integrity Council (PIC), which included civil society representatives. And during the competition to HACC, the Public Council of International Experts was involved which helped the HQC in determining whether the candidates were in compliance with integrity criteria (morality, honesty, integrity, etc.) and the availability of the necessary knowledge and skills required of the HACC justices for a trial. Establishing the relevant bodies as additional filters for screening the candidates is also a feature that distinguishes the respective judicial selection procedure in Ukraine from other countries. In particular, the Chairman of the Public Council of International Experts, Sir Anthony Hooper, praised the efforts of Ukraine to reform the judicial system and noted that Ukraine is the only country in the world, which engaged foreigners in the process of selecting judges, which was performed in the most transparent manner. The HQC also highly appreciated the cooperation with international experts.
The meeting agenda also included a discussion on developing mediation in Ukraine. USAID New Justice Program experts Ales Zalar, Director of the European Center for Dispute Resolution, and Frank C. Laney, Circuit Mediator for the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, learned the views of the participants on the status, obstacles, and opportunities for mediation development in Ukraine. It is expected that, after a comprehensive analysis of the mediation status in the country, the experts will prepare recommendations for its implementation and promotion.