Congress of Judges appoints controversial judge to Constitutional Court

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The Congress of Judges on Nov. 13 appointed Viktor Horodovenko, the head of Zaporizhzhia Oblast’s Court of Appeals, as a judge of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court’s work has been paralyzed for more than a year due to a lack of a quorum, with the court failing to elect a chairman and adopt regulations to function under the new Constitutional Court law passed in July.

As a result of the blockage, the Constitutional Court has so far failed to consider two bills on lifting lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution, the law on the lustration of top officials who served ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and other laws.

Horodovenko’s appointment is a controversial one: Ihor Ushaty, a judge of Zaporizhia Oblast’s Tokmak District Court, has accused Horodovenko of extorting money from him in exchange for an appointment, and has initiated criminal cases into the accusations.

Horodovenko acquired the right to use a Pajero Wagon car in 2010 but failed to declare it in his 2013 and 2014 asset declarations, according to the Reanimation Package of Reforms, a civil society watchdog.

The car is owned by Volodymyr Korniyenko, who also owns two tourist resorts on the sea coast, despite not having a high declared income, the Reanimation Package of Reforms said.

Horodovenko denied corruption accusations in a radio interview and argued that he did not actually use the car until 2013.

Four more Constitutional Court judges must be appointed tom fill the remaining vacancies: two by the Verkhovna Rada and another two by the president.

The appointments are being made under a controversial law passed in July.

The law has been criticized because it allows the president, parliament and the Congress of Judges to hold non-transparent competitions to pick candidates without independent civic oversight in an arbitrary way. Critics say that the law will allow Poroshenko and his parliamentary majority to fully control the Constitutional Court.

Viktor Horodovenko, a new judge of the Constitutional Court.

Viktor Horodovenko, a new judge of the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, three incumbent judges of the Constitutional Court – Mykhailo Hultai, Mykhailo Zaporozhets and Natalia Shaptala – and several ex-judges of the court are under investigation in an usurpation of power case against Yanukovych. They are accused of adopting several decisions that enabled Yanukovych to monopolize power.

According to records in Yanukovych’s Party of Regions’ alleged off-the-book ledger, judges from the Constitutional Court received $6 million from the Party of Regions for making rulings that helped Yanukovych usurp power.

Despite charges having been made against Yanukovych, there are still no formal charges against the Constitutional Court judges accused of helping Yanukovych usurp power. The Prosecutor General’s Office has been accused of covering up for the judges for political reasons.

In 2014, the Verkhovna Rada fired five Constitutional Court judges for violating their oath by letting Yanukovych monopolize power. Lawmakers urged the president and the Congress of Judges to fire the remaining judges as well.

However, Poroshenko and the congress have not done so.

In another controversial development, Poroshenko on Nov. 10 appointed to the Supreme Court 25 judges who have ill-gotten wealth, participated in political cases, made unlawful rulings or are under investigation in graft cases, according to the Public Integrity Council.

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