Merit-based, Objective Judicial Testing Levels the Playing Field

Head of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine Ihor Samsin communicates with the candidates before the testing.
Head of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine Ihor Samsin communicates with the candidates before the testing.
USAID FAIR Justice Project
"Our staff and experts worked to ensure objectivity in judicial selection by providing equal conditions for all candidates in terms of time, number and level of complexity of test questions, as well as unified criteria for evaluating exams. Information about the results is absolutely open and available to the public." - Ihor Samsin, Head of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine

Improved Judicial Selection Procedures Show Results.

More than 1,100 candidates successfully passed 2012 nationwide judicial selection testing conducted by the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQC) and now will compete to fill nearly 1,000 vacant judicial positions. The standardized, objective and transparent system for testing judicial candidates is the result of assistance that USAID provided to the HQC through the Ukraine Rule of Law Project and its successor the FAIR Justice Project (FAIR) since 2007.

For years, Ukraine lacked a standardized, merit-based or objective process for selecting judges. The testing and evaluation of judicial candidates was conducted in closed meetings by part-time regional judicial qualifications commissions, which lacked standards governing the number and scope of questions.

Thanks to the joint efforts of USAID and the HQC, a national anonymous judicial test and qualifications exam became a requirement under the new Law on the Judiciary and the Status of Judges, adopted on July 7, 2010. That law also made the HQC a permanent, full-time body. In 2011 with USAID support, the HQC successfully conducted the first national anonymous judicial test and qualifications exam.

On June 5, 2012, the HQC again began the second nationwide judicial selection process with more than 3,500 lawyers taking the national anonymous judicial test, which consists of 100 multiple choice questions covering 13 areas of law. As recommended by USAID, the HQC provided judicial candidates with information about the test in advance, including posting sample questions and videotaped instructions on its website on how to fill out forms.

Around 1,500 candidates successfully passed this initial step and were admitted to the HQC qualifications exam.

Building on recommendations from USAID and lessons learned from the previous year, this year the HQC conducted the anonymous judicial test and qualifications exam at a single location in the presence of independent monitors and representatives of the media. This helped ensure a level playing field for all candidates and improved the transparency of the testing process. Test scores were automatically processed and immediately posted on the HQC website.

One test taker noted, “At present, it is the most democratic selection process in Ukraine. Previously, I was neither aware of this procedure nor could access any information about it. Today, if you have enough knowledge and experience, you do not need a reference from a chief judge to try to become a judge. ”

Transparent, objective and merit-based judicial selection directly advances the creation of a professional corps of judges which in turn contributes to improving public trust and confidence in the judiciary. For this reason, USAID continues to support the HQC in its effort to further enhance judicial selection policies and procedures in line with international and European standards.

Last updated: April 09, 2014

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