There should be uniform standards of ethical behaviour for all legal professions – RJRCs representatives

May 26, 2021 | Judiciary, Justice, RJRC
On May 25, there was a discussion held "Ethical Rules of Lawyers" with representatives of the RJRCs participating. Judges, lawyers, prosecutors, private enforcement officers, bankruptcy trustees, notaries and academia had the opportunity to discuss ethical standards of each profession in panel discussion format.

The event was moderated by Roman Chumak, Kharkiv RJRC coordinator, lawyer, managing partner of "Ares" law firm and by Alina Serhieva, expert of EU Project "Pravo-Justice".

"You all communicate with each other when carrying out professional activity. And our goal is to strengthen this interaction, to make it more effective and professional," emphasised in opening remarks Oksana Tsymbrivska, Key National Expert of EU Project "Pravo-Justice".

Answering the question of whether it is ethical to comment on court judgments, Halyna Dibrova, member of Odesa RJRC, member of the Council of Judges of Ukraine, judge of the Southwest Court of Appeal expressed the opinion that court press secretaries should do the following: "To comment on judgments, answer questions, give an assessment one should be independent and impartial."

Victoriia Cheban, Chernivtsi RJRC member, judge of the Shevchenkivsky District Court of Chernivtsi, member of the Council of Judges of Ukraine, talked about draft amendments to the Code of Judicial Ethics. In particular, it is proposed to prohibit judges from commenting in the media and on the Internet on cases that have been or are being considered by respective court or that falling within the jurisdiction of this court. At the same time, these rules will not apply to public statements of court presidents and judges-speakers when performing their duties, when clarifying court procedures, speeches at academic events, other events within educational activities or interpreting current legislation or proposing its amending for the future.

"Streamlining communication tools is necessary to increase trust to the judiciary," emphasised Victoriia Cheban.

According to Olena Fonova, judge-speaker of the Commercial Court of Luhansk region, Donbas RJRC coordinator, social media audiences are interested in stories about exemplary cases, are welcomed and increase trust to the judiciary as a place where one can find justice and restore violated rights.

"At the same time, it should be understood that the limit of a judge's statements is where begins damage to the authority of the judiciary", emphasised Olena Fonova.

"It is important for the court to communicate with the public because the public should know about the reasons for making a decision. If there is no such communication, such court judgments will always be commented on by the public," emphasised Roman Chumak.

Liudmyla Volkova, lawyer and advisor to "AVELLUM" law firm drew attention to unequal treatment of various legal professions as far as publication of information on disciplinary sanctions for non-compliance with ethics is concerned: “Since we are talking about unified ethical standards, we must also talk about unified approaches to transparency of disciplinary proceedings".

Serhii Donkov, bankruptcy trustee, EU Project "Pravo-Justice" national expert stressed that the professional ethics of bankruptcy trustees is developing slowly because professional self-regulation of bankruptcy trustees is limited by law: "When creating self-regulatory organization, the bankruptcy trustees community has not been transferred functions and powers of self-regulation of their profession, such as full control over the activities of bankruptcy trustees, being in charge of training, qualification exam procedures."

Moreover, participants to the discussion stressed that it is necessary to avoid non-work-related relationships between participants in pending court cases as this may raise suspicions of bias.

"The behaviour of a judge, even outside working hours, should be such that the average citizen has no doubts about impartiality of the judge during the trial", emphasised Olena Fonova.

Marta Mochulska, Lviv RJRC Coordinator, PhD in Law, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv stressed the importance of laying the foundations of legal ethics during university studies: "Whether ethical rules are effective in legal practice depends on understanding the importance of ethics rules and their practical application. Therefore, it is vital to shape this understanding in a young lawyer, starting from student years."

According to Valerii Prytuliak, Odesa RJRC Coordinator, member of the ethics committee of the Association of Private Enforcement Officers of Ukraine, national and international experts of EU Project “Pravo-Justice” supported drafting a new Code of Ethics for private enforcement officers. In particular, it provides a rule to hand in a copy of the Code to each private enforcement officer.

"We can talk about professional ethics rules for hours on end. But until we give this document to the enforcement officer, we cannot demand that it be complied with," said Valerii Prytuliak.

All the participants concluded that all legal professions should develop unified ethical standards for all legal professions.

Background information:

Regional Justice Reform Councils (RJRCs) have been established with support of EU Project "Pravo-Justice" and function in Chernivtsi, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa regions and Donbas. To date, Councils members have been actively participating in drafting a bill on mediation, amendments to the Bankruptcy Code, proposals to improve legislation on enforcement proceedings, introducing e-court and discussing the concept of transitional justice.

RJRCs act as permanent working groups to promote bottom-up reforms: bringing region-specific challenges and potential solutions thereof to the level of central government.