On 24 July the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ) announced registration of intention to participate in the competition to the High Anti-Corruption Court.

Taking into account the absence of the legal category “registration of intention” in the Law “On Judiciary and the Status of Judges,” many people believed it was the actual beginning of competitive selection of judges to the future judiciary institution.

In fact, everything is a little different.

Commission, using its own words, is using the so-called registration of intention to participate in the competition in order to plan its work. Taking into account the fact that a new judiciary institution is being created, with a lot of public attention directed towards it, it is truly difficult to assess the number of those potentially interested in the competition.

However, here are a few comments on what HQCJ did.

Firstly, if they really want to assess the potential number of candidates, why is there only a week to register?  The so-called registration of intention will end on August 1, and it is doubtful that all the potential participants in the competition will find out and register on the Commission’s website during that one week.

Secondly, is HQCJ going to use this registration to restrict participation for those individuals who did not manage to “register their intention”?

Fortunately, due to the public’s quick reaction, the Commission has already stated officially that it will not impose any restrictions on the competition pertaining to registration of intention.

However, in spite of these statements of HQCJ, we had better follow their every step. If we think of the experience with selection of judges to the Supreme Court of Ukraine, the expert community understands perfectly well that there are currently high risks of manipulations around the procedure of competitive selection of judges to the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine.

Therefore, the competition requires constant attention of media and the public.

But let’s go back to the competition itself. There is still no information on when it will start, how long it will last, how many days the candidates will have to collect the necessary documents.

According to HQCJ members, there is no draft decision on this either, but unofficially, they believe that the competition will probably start as early as the first half of August.

That’s right. In the middle of the summer, when the public attention is directed to vegetables in the village and palm trees at the seaside, and a lot of lawyers are on holiday, too.

Of course, it is praiseworthy that they want to complete all the necessary procedures to create the High Anti-Corruption Court as soon as possible, but selection of judges is definitely not the case when speed can prevail over quality.

It would make much more sense to start the competition in the fall. Even if it is announced in May, the submission period cannot be shorter than 1.5 months.

In this case, all the interested candidates will have enough time to prepare documents and submit them to the High Qualification Commission of Judges.

Who are the potential candidates?

According to the Law of Ukraine “On the High Anti-Corruption Court,” Art. 7, part 2, a citizen of Ukraine is eligible to compete for the position of a judge of the High Anti-Corruption Court if he or she complies with one of the following criteria:

1) has at least five years of experience on the position of a judge

2) holds a Law degree and at least seven years of scholarly experience in Law

3) has at least seven years of professional experience as a defense attorney, including representation in court and/or defense from criminal charges

4) has at least seven years of total experience of professional activity in points 1-3 of this part

Judges, scholars and defense attorneys – these three categories of lawyers can compete for the positions of judges in the future High Anti-Corruption Court.

The list of documents required by the Commission is specified in Art. 81, part 4 and in Art. 71, part 1 of the Law of Ukraine “On Judiciary and the Status of Judges” and consists of 14 elements. Demanding any other documents from a candidate is prohibited.

The long-awaited start of work of the future anti-corruption court will not only launch the chain of the newly created anti-corruption infrastructure, but also raise the bar of justice for Ukraine’s entire judiciary. That is why it is so important for as many honest professionals as possible to participate in the competition.

Judges who aspire to illustrate with their own example that justice can and should be fair to everyone, scholars who have been dreaming their whole life of applying the knowledge they have and delivering justice in the name of Ukraine, defense attorneys who feel the strength and ambition to represent the judicial power of Ukraine and achieve the highest, most prestigious stage in any lawyer’s career – the status of a judge – HERE IS YOUR CHANCE!

Do not wait, do not hesitate. Civil society will do everything possible to keep the attention of the society and international partners focused on every little step in the competition.

Maksym Kostetskyi, expert of RPR Anti-Corruption Group, Project Manager and Legal Advisor with Transparency International Ukraine

For Ukrainska Pravda