Full implementation of the UJITS in Ukraine is a matter of several years, E-Justice expert

Oct 28, 2019 | E-justice, Judiciary, Justice
“We would recommend that we continue filing claims through the E-Court, but we are still duplicating them in paper form,” the EU Project Pravo-Justice expert advised.

A key step of the judicial reform should be the introduction of e-court, which is intended to simplifying most processes and minimizing the risks of interference and abuse. For this purpose, since March 1, 2019 the Unified Judicial Information and Telecommunication System (UJITS) should have become fully operational in all courts of Ukraine. However, only some courts currently operate certain modules, while being reluctant or even refusing accepting electronic claims.

When can the UJITS implementation be expected and when will the system become fully operational? Judicial-Legal Newspaper discussed those and other questions with the Key National for E-justice Polina Kazakevych.

What is the current stage of the UJITS implementation?

Due to the fact that the next year is declared to be the year of total digitalization in Ukraine with the country’s leadership having declared that after 2020 the state should be fully in a smartphone, it seems that full-fledge launch of the UJITS may accelerate.

In the meantime, one should understand that building up any information system, especially such a complex one as the UJITS, is an extremely complex, strategic issue that requires a clear action plan and distribution of functions among all relevant stakeholders. It is of common knowledge that at the end of 2017, amendments to the procedural legislation came into force, stipulating that the UJITS system should start functioning 90 days after the publication of the relevant announcement by the State Judicial Administration in the newspaper “Holos Ukrainy” (“Voice of Ukraine”) and on the judiciary web portal. Following that publication of December 1, 2018, the system piloting was expected to begin on March 1, 2019. However, on December 22, 2018, under the SJA, a test mode of the UJITS “E-court” subsystem was launched in 18 pilot courts.

In turn, under the decision of the High Council of Justice of February 28, 2019, the State Judicial Administration returned the draft Regulation on the UJITS for revision and proposed to withdraw the announcement. Thus, on March 1, 2019, Holos Ukrainy newspaper published a notice of withdrawal of an advertisement published on December 1, 2018. Under the HCJ decision of May 10, 2018, a standing inter-agency commission on the UJITS was set up, while on March 6, 2019, a working group was established with purposes of thorough revision of the draft Regulation on the System.

The first technical assessment of the UJITS readiness, as requested by the HCJ, was conducted by the Project experts in April 2019. After having completed such analysis, it became clear that there was a demand for more thorough and systematic work. Assessing the readiness of such a large information system as the UJITS was neither easy nor fast. This requires much efforts from the focus groups, system users, and IT professionals.

Currently, a team of international and national experts from our Project is preparing a UJITS development strategy.

Could you tell in more details what exactly the strategy under development will be about? What novelties will it contain?

The strategy will be presented to the judiciary in early November. These will be some specific guidelines and a relevant action plan to develop a system that would be optimal for our country. A meaningful and comprehensive document will outline some basic principles of the UJITS phased implementation, as well as the assessment of the system’s current state. However, let us wait for the document to be ready, as it is still underway.

It should be noted here that such an analysis would not have been possible without the overall support and cooperativity on the part of the HCJ, the SJA, the Council of Judges, and the leadership of the State Enterprise “Information Judicial System”.

What problems relating to the UJITS implementation did you encounter as an expert?

As noted, building up any information system requires a clear action plan, the distribution of functions among the involved participants, besides, many other aspects must be taken into account. In Ukraine, the performance of that task was fragmentary, with no deadlines respected, so, in our opinion, there have been a number of problems along the way. One should not overlook the fact that Ukraine is a large country with all the consequences topping uo, such as the country’s area, the number of citizens etc.

Speaking about the judicial system, we have a sufficiently extensive network of bodies within the judicial system, which are, in one way or another, responsible for organizational and methodological issues. These are the above mentioned HCJ, SJA, HQCJ, NSJ, and finally the Council of Judges, which is a collegial and highest judicial self-governance body. It is true that a lot depends on the smooth interaction among all these institutions. Including the UJITS whose set up requires rapid and effective cooperation. Communication with representatives of the legal community, including lawyers, is also an important component.

Is there any deadline for the project on full-fledge implementation of the UJITS?

It should be noted here that the concept of e-court should not be considered equivalent to the UJITS. In fact, the E-court is only one module of one of the UJITS subsystems, namely the electronic document flow subsystem, and should ensure the direct exchange of electronic documents between courts and litigants.

The system itself should consist of five interrelated subsystems, and most of them is composed of a number of modules. So, the UJITS subsystems are both a single contact center for Ukrainian judiciary and a comprehensive information security system.

An important UJITS module is the automated interaction with other automated systems. Here, much depends on effective adjustment of interoperability with other information systems and databases.

This issue mostly requires professional cooperation with the Prosecutor General`s Office, Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, 'anti-corruption infrastructure' bodies, and the Ministry of Justice, which holds about 20 state and unified registers in Ukraine. There are issues of interoperability with the registers of prisoners, insolvency practitioners, private enforcement officers and others.

Furthermore, given the intensity of the judicial reform process, in particular as to hiring judges, proper functioning of the Staff, Financial, and Accounting Management module which covers judicial dossiers and judicial candidates’ dossiers, is extremely important. As known, the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine carried out this work on its own.

All these and a number of other issues are objectively complex, comprehensive, and it takes time to work on them and solve them. Therefore, it is just impossible to say now when the UJITS will become fully operational. Furthermore, it should be remembered that the information system can be improved according to needs, user requests, changes in procedures.

Thus, according to estimates of our international experts who have built up information systems in more than 10 countries, a phased establishment of the UJITS may take up to five years, while this process should be organized and planned properly. Plans for full implementation of the UJITS in the coming months, and even in the following year, are unrealistic.

How do courts function where certain system modules have already been implemented? Is it possible to file documents electronically everywhere?

There are courts that currently refuse to take claims electronically. On one hand, this is understandable, since the system had to be launched according to the law. On the other hand, many courts nevertheless accept such claims.

Given the government’s intention to digitize public services, this seems quite right.

In addition, one should not overlook the fact that it has been decided to introduce a test mode operation of the “E-court” subsystem in all local and appellate courts of Ukraine, as stated in the Decree of the SJA of Ukraine of December 22, 2018. The same was recently stated by a panel of judges of the Administrative Cassation Court within the Supreme Courtafter having considered an administrative case against a claim to the Deposit Guarantee Fund on recognition of unlawfulness of some acts, and obligation to take measures (ruling of the Supreme Court dated 10 September 2019). We would still recommend submitting your documents electronically, but for now still duplicating them in paper form.

What other innovations can be expected during the implementation of the UJITS system?

In fact, a lot of work and some basic principles of the system operation have already been set. Obviously, there are many unresolved issues that need to be discussed within both – general discussions and narrow professional community. At the same time, the experience of our European colleagues should not be neglected and we should not waste time on reinventing a bicycle. Of course, the development of any institute in each country is unique, it has its peculiarities, however, there are some universal recipes and tips to be followed and applied in Ukraine.

I would like to remind you that according to the Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges”, the UJITS functions (at present, it is rather – should function) in courts, the High Council of Judges, the High Qualification Commission of Judges, the State Judicial Administration, their bodies and units, which enables electronic record keeping, in particular e-document flow within relevant bodies and institutions and among them, the centralized storage of procedural and other documents and information in a unified database, exchange of documents and information in electronic form among courts and other justice sector bodies authorities in real time and more.

It is only when the judiciary bodies and all parties to the process are able to exercise their powers and rights effectively and efficiently, using the UJITS capacity, it will become possible to speak of the full-fledged operation of the system.