Ukraine Judges Question U.S. System During Berks Visit

READING, PA -- A group of visiting Ukrainian judges were bewildered and concerned Monday when they were told the U.S.' highest court was intertwined with political parties.

"Is there a plan to change that a judge is selected by a political party?" Ukrainian Judge Anatoliy Polyanskyy, who presides over an economic court there, said through an interpreter.

Polyanskyy, 47, was one of five Ukrainian judges visiting U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Reading, studying the American judiciary system as part of the Open World Program.

The issue of Supreme Court justices being appointed by the politically elected president was particularly vexing to Polyanskyy, who wondered how the justices are able to sever all bias toward the political party that supported them.

In Ukraine, he said, judges are not appointed by political parties but instead take examinations, to ensure they are free of political bias.

Throughout the question-and-answer session, led by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard E. Fehling and U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, a Chester County Republican who represents part of Berks, the judges were told how Congress interacts with the courts.

They asked a variety of questions on legislative reform, government funding and whether members of Congress have power to influence judicial rulings.

"It was very interesting and shocking," said Judge Pavlo Cheberyak, who presides over a Kiev economic court.

The 12-year-old program sponsored by Congress enables countries to send officials to the U.S. to participate in workshops and sessions ranging from the American legal system and accountable governance to social issues.

"We're in a process of legal reform in our country; that's why this is very important to us," said Cheberyak, 40.

The five judges arrived Saturday in Reading for a weeklong tour and series of meetings with officials to learn about the U.S. judicial system.

"They get a chance to come here to see us in action and to talk with lawyers and judges, not just read about it in a book," Fehling said.

The World Affairs Council of Greater Reading, he said, has hosted judges from the program for three years.

"I wanted to find out how the American legal system works and what are the differences and what is better here and what is better (in Ukraine)," Polyanskyy said.

Both Cheberyak and Polyanskyy said the session was a positive experience.

"We used to have a legal system similar to the U.S.," Cheberyak said.

But, he said, legislation was passed that took away most of the Ukrainian supreme court's rights, an issue, he said, that bothers all five of the visiting judges.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we have the best legal system in the world; it's not perfect, but it's the best," Fehling said. "It's wonderful that Congress has enabled a program to come here and learn our system."

Source: Reading Eagle