The Kyiv Administrative District Court on Oct. 11 reinstated Stanislav Shevchuk as the chairman of the Constitutional Court after he was removed from office in May.
The moves comes amid a power struggle between Shevchuk, who was seen as favoring President Volodymyr Zelensky during the presidential election in March and April, and judges of the Constitutional Court loyal to ex-President Petro Poroshenko.
Shevchuk has accused Oleksandr Tupitsky, whom he is supposed to replace as chairman due to the court decision, of having been loyal first to former President Viktor Yanukovych and then to Poroshenko. Tupitsky and the Constitutional Court did not respond to requests for comment.
Shevchuk, who became the Constitutional Court’s chairman in February 2018, was ousted by the court and replaced by Natalia Shaptala in May 2019. When Shaptala’s term as a judge expired, Tupitsky was elected as the chairman of the Constitutional Court on Sept. 17.
When the Constitutional Court ejected Shevchuk in May, it accused him of illegally appointing several advisors, pressuring judges of the court and illegally publishing a court decision without posting dissenting opinions.
Shevchuk accused the Constitutional Court of ousting him with blatant violations of procedure and disputed his dismissal in court. He accused the court judges of committing a grave crime and usurping power.
Shevchuk also said in May that “an anti-constitutional coup has taken place at the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.”
Conflict with Poroshenko
The Constitutional Court judges also argued in May that Shevchuk had politicized the Constitutional Court by telling the strana.ua news site in March that he would refuse to swear in a president if the presidential election was rigged. This was interpreted as a veiled reference to Poroshenko.
Poroshenko’s spokesman Sviatoslav Tsegolko did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Shevchuk also said in the interview that, after his election as chairman in 2018, Poroshenko proposed that the judge become a member of his team. Shevchuk said he responded that he could only contact the president in the interests of serving the Constitution, and Poroshenko did not like this answer.
After being removed from the court, Shevchuk claimed on Facebook that Poroshenko was behind his dismissal.
In April, the Schemes investigative journalism project reported that Shevchuk had met with Andriy Bogdan, then a lawyer for Zelenskiy and now his chief of staff, at the Constitutional Court on March 13.
Bogdan is subject to the 2014 lustration law, which prevents the appointment of top Yanukovych-era officials to state jobs. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court was considering the constitutionality of the lustration law at that time.
Bogdan and Shevchuk admitted that they had met, but denied discussing the lustration law. They said they had discussed the Constitutional Court’s controversial Feb. 26 decision to cancel a law criminalizing illicit enrichment as unconstitutional.
Shevchuk’s decision to back the cancellation of the illicit enrichment law damaged his reputation, drawing criticism from anti-corruption activists and Western diplomats and experts.
Constitutional court scandals
The Constitutional Court has delayed a decision on the lustration law many times. Currently there are not enough judges who would vote for canceling it but this may change when the Council of Judges selects three new Constitutional Court members in November, Shevchuk told the Kyiv Post.
Meanwhile, Sergii Gorbatuk, head of the in absentia cases unit at the Prosecutor General’s Office, told the Kyiv Post that prosecutors had prepared a notice of suspicion for one of the former judges of the Constitutional Court for issuing unlawful rulings that helped Yanukovych monopolize power. However, the notice of suspicion was blocked by former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, he added.
Petro Stetsyuk, a former judge of the Constitutional Court, has testified that Bohdan pressured him in April 2010 to issue one of the rulings that helped Yanukovych to usurp and monopolize power by allowing independent lawmakers to switch to Yanukovych’s party, two sources told the Kyiv Post, citing official testimony given by the ex-judge. Bohdan called Stetsyuk’s accusation a “lie.”
Administrative court’s scandals
The Kyiv Administrative City Court, which reinstated Shevchuk, has been mired in controversy and corruption scandals. It is known for highly questionable rulings and its alleged connections to influential politicians.
The Prosecutor General’s Office on Aug. 2 charged top judges of the Kyiv Administrative District Court with issuing unlawful rulings and unlawfully interfering in the work of other judges. Law enforcers also released shocking audio recordings of the judges implicating themselves in various crimes and exposing what appears to be their feeling of total impunity. They deny the accusations of wrongdoing.
The Kyiv Administrative District Court has issued several rulings in favor of billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, whom Bohdan had previously served as a lawyer. In April the court canceled the nationalization of Kolomoisky’s PrivatBank and ruled in favor of Triantal Investment Ltd, a firm co-owned by Kolomoisky.
Kolomoisky is a former business partner to Zelensky, and has been suspected of backing the political campaign of his former partner. Both of them deny being political allies.