Ukrainian Judges Approve Modern Code of Judicial Ethics

Judges and attorneys discussed aspects of the draft Code of Judicial Ethics during workshops.
Judges and attorneys discussed aspects of the draft Code of Judicial Ethics during workshops.
USAID FAIR Justice Project
Judges from all over Ukraine contributed to developing a new Code of Judicial Ethics
“A Judge is more than a position; it is a way of life under rules of a special code of honor. Therefore, it was critically important to develop the new Code of Judicial Ethics, which is a generalized set of rules for every judge.” - Yaroslav Romaniuk, First Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and the Council of Judges Chair at the time the Ethics Code was approved.

Ukraine’s original Code of Judicial Ethics (Code) was approved by the Congress of Judges of Ukraine more than 10 years ago, but the Code failed to keep pace with other legal developments in the justice sector. The Ukrainian judiciary soon found that its Code contradicted the Law of Ukraine on the Judiciary and Status of Judges adopted in 2010 and failed to comply with the United Nations Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct adopted in 2002 and other international standards of judicial conduct. To address these fundamental concerns, in September 2010 the Congress of Judges of Ukraine tasked Ukraine’s Council of Judges (COJ) with developing amendments to the Code to assure that it would serve as a modern and sustainable system for describing and regulating professional judicial conduct.

To develop amendments to the Code, the COJ established an Expert Review Group consisting of judges from a cross section of first instance, appellate, and high courts of all jurisdictions with broad geographic representation. Given the complexity of the issues involved - notably those regarding compliance with international instruments to which Ukraine is signatory - the Expert Review Group sought the assistance of USAID and its FAIR Justice Project (FAIR).

The Expert Review Group and FAIR broadly reviewed the Code and drew on the knowledge and experience of practitioners as well as international and Ukrainian experts in areas of judicial ethics, European standards, and the Bangalore Principles. To ensure widespread input from those who would be most affected – Ukrainian judges – USAID supported the launch of an online forum where judges were able to openly discuss content and proposed amendments to the Code, an inclusive effort that fostered collegiality and, often, spirited debate. Seven regional roundtables in Odesa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernihiv, Sevastopol, Kharkiv, and Donetsk were conducted between May and October 2012, with a final forum, the “International Conference on Judicial Ethics: Promoting Public Trust and Confidence,” held in Kyiv in November 2012. By the end of deliberations, 220 judges representing 142 out of 756 Ukrainian courts had contributed to development of the draft Code.

The proposed amendments were approved by the COJ in December 2012 and adopted by a plenary session of the 11th Congress of Judges in February 2013, with 84% of the judges voting in favor of the new Code.

Ukraine’s new Code more fully addresses such critical issues as ex parte communication, the financial interests of a judge or family members, recusal, interaction with the media, and conduct outside the courtroom. The new Code ensures Ukraine’s conformity with international standards on judicial conduct, promoting greater judicial accountability, an important step in increasing public confidence in Ukraine’s judiciary.

USAID will continue to support the Ukrainian judiciary through the COJ and the National School of Judges, which now have the responsibility of guaranteeing that Ukraine’s Code of Judicial Ethics is understood and applied.

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