Candidates for judge first succeed and then get removed from the running

People seeking the right to hold the position of judge have complained that the procedure is not transparent and that candidates can be removed on subjective grounds. They reject the assertions of public officials that the new system is unbiased. The system is also criticized by some independent specialists. 


Jean Zapruta from Simferopol is a former police officer and businessman who retrained as a bar lawyer. He explains that he decided to apply to become a judge after computer testing of candidates was introduced and after numerous statements from public officials claiming that the new system for appointing judges was fair.

Mr Zapruta passed all the tests, submitted all the necessary documents and was waiting for his documents to be considered by the High Council of Judges and for appointment as judge. Yet suddenly, he says, requirements not envisaged by law were presented.

"I was disturbed by the fact that the High Qualification Commission intends to consider adverse information about candidates. I began investigating legislation to find information regarding at what stage this is supposed to happen, whether the Commission has the authority to exclude a person at the stage of submitting documents to the High Council of Justice. I didn’t find it.  I began getting telephone calls asking me to come to Kyiv to discuss some negative information about me. I didn’t go but sent my objections and soon learned unofficially, and from the Yurydychna Praktyka website that on 14 November the Commission had removed me from the list of candidates.".

If the competition is objective, why are the new judges pro-regime?

Mr Zapruta has filed a law suit against the High Qualification Commission with the court, while also turning to the High Council of Justice, the Verkhovna Rada, the European Parliament and  David Vonne, Head of the USAID Mission which finances court reform in Ukraine. He is convinced that the possibilities for judge candidates are deliberately restricted.

"The law totally excludes subjectivism. Even the tests are according to strip code, with nobody knowing the names. How it was in actually fact is not known, since when I read that relatives of important figures have got to the best courts, I start doubting. That doesn’t happen by chance", he says.

The Head of the High Qualification Commission, Ihor Samsinnevdov stated after the end of the testing that the new system gave all equal opportunities.

Former Kyiv judge Yury Vasylenko points out that even an automated system cannot safeguard one against corruption. He noted, for example, that many judges had been dismissed from district courts in the capital, with people loyal to the present regime taking their place.

Former judge, now Professor of Law and representative of the Verkhovna Rada in the Constitutional Court, Anatoly Selivanov says that each system has failings, as a result of which Ukrainians do not trust judges. He adds that a transparent and effective system for selection of judges can only be created if the authorities begin taking the views of academics and independent specialists into account.

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