Ukraine // Discussing the legitimacy of power of judges, ethics and integrity

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By Lino Brosius

On 21 and 22 June 2017 a selected group of judges from the Lviv region participated in a workshop on the core values of justice and judicial ethics. CILC, the Centre for Judicial Studies and the Lviv branch of the National School of Judges of Ukraine linked Ukrainian judges of the Lviv regional Court of Appeal and several District Courts to their Dutch peers.

Nataliya Kuriy – judge in the Court of Appeal of the Lviv region kicked off with an overview of present-day influencing of judges, highlighting the pressure that Ukrainian judges face from other branches of power and the media. The participants added to this discussion by presenting examples of negative media publications about their work, the effect these publications had and the ways they dealt with them.

Dutch lawyer and Professor of Law Jonathan Soeharno, followed-up with an introduction about the integrity of the judge, outlining its main drivers, the link to the legitimacy of power of judges, the role of ethics, and trustworthiness. Professor Soeharno underlined the relevance of both individual and institutional prudence in administering justice, making clear that what is at stake is the confidence which the courts in a democratic society must inspire in the public.

Ruth van der Pol – judge in the Court of Appeal of Arnhem-Leeuwarden, continued with a presentation on the independence of the judiciary, singling out different types of independence, including the independence vs. the executive and the independence in terms of the legal status of judges. He highlighted the so-called ‘independence from a judge’s personal convictions’, showcasing examples on how to deal with this.

Rutger Wery, judge in the same Court of Appeal, spoke about the relationship between the mass media and justice, and the public perception of justice. He explained the discrepancy between the legal orientation of (most) judges and the social orientation of the media, and he underlined the relevance of bridging this gap. He moved on to stress the importance of exposing the judiciary: “In order to be believed, justice must be seen to be done!”

On the second day of the workshop, the focus shifted to discussing judicial moral dilemmas with the participating judges. Using a web application and mobile phones, judges were able to respond in real-time to dilemmas that were screened on the wall.

  • Can a judge consider a case in which one of the parties is the father of his/her daughter’s classmate?
  • Can a judge give paid lectures on law to lawyers from one particular law firm?
  • Can a judge who is a practicing believer handle a case in which the accused has strongly offended believers?

Using this interactive approach the project facilitated a discussion among Ukrainian peers that would normally not take place. The judicial moral dilemmas triggered the judges to speak about a range of issues they are facing and ways to address them, including conflicts of interests, improper behavior of parties in a case, high workload, the quality of work and the vulnerable position of the judge.

In September 2017, CILC will organise a third workshop on the core values of justice and integrity in Lviv. This project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs under its Matra programme.

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