On 13 November 2011 the Law of Ukraine No. 3932-17 "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts Concerning Consideration of Cases by the Supreme Court of Ukraine" (the "Law") became effective.

The Law brought about important amendments that concern the organisation of the Supreme Court of Ukraine (the "Supreme Court") and the scope of its authority. The Supreme Court lost its decisive role in Ukraine's court system back in 2010 following the enactment of the Law of Ukraine "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges". The Law has now given some of the authority back to the Supreme Court and reinforced the Supreme Court's position as the highest court in the Ukrainian judiciary.

This new Law has vested the Supreme Court with the power to rule on the merits. Before the Law became effective, the Supreme Court could only return the cases to lower courts for re-consideration. New judgments of the Supreme Court are subject to mandatory publication on its official website.

Lower courts are now explicitly required to follow the conclusions of the Supreme Court stipulated in its judgements when determining the rule of law to be applied to legal relations in dispute.

The Law reinstated four judicial chambers within the Supreme Court (administrative, commercial, criminal, and civil chambers) and increased the number of the judges from 20 to 48.

Appeals can now be submitted to the Supreme Court within three months and extension of this term may be granted by the Supreme Court if the appellant has a legitimate excuse for not being able to file an appeal on time. The appellant previously had only one month to do this and this term proved to be insufficient in practice.

Perhaps the most controversial amendment has been made to the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Court Judgments". Amended provisions effectively limit public access to all court judgments by establishing that the list of court judgments to be included in the public State Register of Court Judgements is now subject to approval by the Council of Judges of Ukraine, having been agreed with the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine. It means that whether or not the court judgements will end up in the publicly available State Register of Court Judgements is discretionary and depends on the two abovementioned bodies.

This amendment has provoked a lot of criticism within the Ukrainian legal community as it is likely to preclude many high-profile and controversial judgements from being exposed to the public. As a result, this amendment is considered as another threat to the transparency of the judicial system in Ukraine.

Law: No. 3932-17 "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts Concerning Consideration of Cases by the Supreme Court of Ukraine", dated 20 October 2011.

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The original publication date for this article was 30/11/2011.