Ukrainian Constitutional Court: Attacks and Backlash




backlash, tolerance intervals, attacks, Constitutional Court, Ukraine


This article intends to analyze Ukraine’s Constitutional Court in the light of the tolerance interval theory and the backlash thesis, through a case study, which is, the decision issued on October 27, 2020, that held unconstitutional part of the powers of the National Agency for the Corruption Prevention (NAPC). Three comorbidities — particular conditions that weaken the court and render it vulnerable to attacks — in the Ukrainian system are presented: Ukrainian democracy, autocracies tendencies in the presidency, and lack of public confidence in the judicial system. Through the adoption of a Comparative Constitutional Law approach, an index measuring the impact of the ruling is developed and calculated, allowing a comparison of the consequences to other notable controversial rulings in the world. After discussing the findings, the article concludes with some reflections and predictions on the longevity of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court.

Author Biography

Samuel Fonteles, University of Paraná, Brazil

Samuel Fonteles is a prosecutor, former public defender, writer and speaker in Brazil. Currently, he works as an assistant of the Prosecutor General before the Brazilian Supreme Court, having been accepted as a visiting scholar at Stanford Law School (USA — 2022). He is a PhD candidate at Federal University of Paraná (UFPR — Brazil) and holds a Master’s Degree in Constitutional Law from Brazilian Institute of Education, Development and Research (IDP — Brazil). His research is focused on the interaction between Constitutional Courts and the people (backlash phenomenon), as well as comparatives studies in Constitutional Law and constitutional interpretation. Mr. Fonteles has an extensive academic production on Constitutional Law. In 2019, considering a proposed amendment to the Constitution, a senator mentioned one ofhis books, calling it “the most authoritative doctrine.” His works have been cited, among others, by the Brazilian Supreme Court. He has attended courses in Spain (Universidad de Sevilla), Italy (Università di Roma Tor Vergata), presented works in Serbia (Univerzitet u Beogradu — Fakultet političkih nauka — 2018), The United States (Barry University — 2019), South Korea (Sungkyunkwan University — 2019), and Hungary (Széchenyi István University — Győr — 2020). Mr. Fonteles is Reviewer of many Journals, including the “International Relations and Diplomacy” (American Journal — New York). As a speaker, he led classes on TV Justiça, a TV channel that belongs to the Brazilian Supreme Court.


  1. Alina Cherviatsova, “Ukraine”, The I·CONnect-Clough Center 2018 Global Review of Constitutional Law (October 2018): 319–324. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  2. Bodnár Eszter, Fruzsina Gárdos-orosz and Zoltán Pozsár-szentmiklósy. 2018. “The State of Liberal Democracy,” The I·CONnect-Clough Center 2017 Global Review of Constitutional Law (August 2017). Accessed December 25, 2021., Emily. “Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Crisis, Explained,” Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  3. Cherviatsova, Alina. “False Dilemma. The President of Ukraine vs The Constitutional Court.” VerfBlog, 2021/01/21.
  4. Choudhry, Sujit, Sedelius, Thomas and Kyrychenko, Julia. Semi-presidentialism and Inclusive Governance in Ukraine. Reflections for Constitutional Reform. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2018
  5. Deutsche Welle. “Ukraine President Slams ‘Unacceptable’ Corruption Ruling,” DW (Deutsche Welle), October 29, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.‑55439279.
  6. Deutsche Welle. “Ukraine: Protests in Kyiv after Top Court Scraps Anti-graft Laws,” DW (Deutsche Welle), October 30, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.‑55445983.
  7. Durkheim, Émile. As Regras do Método Sociológico. São Paulo: Edipro, 2012.
  8. Epstein, Lee, Knight, Jack and Shvetsova, Olga. 2001. “The Role of Constitutional Courts in The Establishment and Maintenance of Democratic Systems of Government.” Law and Society Review 35, no. 1 (2001): 117–164.
  9. Fonteles, Samuel S. Direito e Backlash. Salvador: Juspodivm, 2018. García-Sayán, Diego. “Guatemala: Attacks against Constitutional Court and delays in the appointment of judges to high courts must stop, United Nations Human Rights Officer of the High Commissioner, November 19, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  10. Ginsburg, Tom and Versteeg, Mila. “Binding the Unbound Executive: Checks and balances in time of pandemic.” Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series. Virginia: University of Virginia School of Law, 2020.
  11. Hirschl, Ran. “On the Blurred Methodological Matrix of Comparative Constitutional Law”, The Migration of Constitutional Ideas, ed. by Sujit Choudhry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  12. International Ukraine. “Ways to Resolve Constitutional Crisis Proposed by MPS,”
  13. International Ukraine, November 12, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  14. Karmanau, Yuras. “Ukraine’s President Moves to Dissolve the Top Court Over a Ruling,” AP News, October 30, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.‑9cf04937d480758903fa030d5cf872af.
  15. Klarman, Michael. “Courts, Social Change and Political Backlash” (Speaker’s notes, Washington, DC, March 31, 2011), Georgetown University. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  16. Kurland, Philip B. “Toward a P. Supreme Court”, University of Chicago Law Review 37, no. 1 (Fall 1969): 20.
  17. Leshchenko, Sergii. “Constitutional Court, a Cornerstone of Corruption, has to be Stopped,” KYIV Post, October 23, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  18. Levitsky, Steven and Ziblatt, Daniel. How Democracies Die. What History Reveals About Our Future. Harlow: Penguin Book, 2018.
  19. Marusiak, Oleksandr. “Ukraine”, The I·CONnect-Clough Center 2020 Global Review of Constitutional Law (March 2021): 320–323. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  20. Monaghan. Henry P. “Constitutional Adjudication: The Who and When.” Yale Law Journal, 82, no. 7 (June 1973): 1363–1397.
  21. Myroniuk, Anna. “Zelensky convenes National Security Council over Threat to Anti-corruption Institutions,” KYIV Post, October 29, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  22. Nekoliak, Andrii. “A Damaged Court Causing a Constitutional Crisis: The Decision of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court on the Anti-Corruption Reform.” VerfBlog, 2020/12/05. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  23. Nelles, Mattia. “Ukraine Caught between Constitutional Crisis and Counter-revolution,” Atlantic Council, November 5, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  24. Posner, Richard A. “Against Constitutional Theory.” New York University Law Review 73, no. 1 (April 1998).
  25. Razumkov Centre. “The Beginning of a New Political Year: Trust in Social Institutions,”
  26. Razumkov Centre, July 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.‑2020r.
  27. Reuters. “Ukraine Leader Asks MPs to Annul Court Ruling on Anti-corruption Laws,” Reuters, October 30, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  28. Rosenberg, Gerald N. The Hollow Hope. Can Courts Bring About Social Change? Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  29. Second Emergency Opinion. European Commission for Democracy Through the Law (Venice Commission), Opinion No. 1012/2020:4.
  30. Sorokin, Oleksiy. “Constitutional Court Judges Live Far Beyond their Stated Means,” KYIV Post, November 6, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  31. Stumpf, István. Reinventing Government. Constitutional Changes in Hungary. Hungary: Gondola, 2017
  32. Sunstein, Cass R. “Backlash’s Travels.” In University of Chicago Public Law & Legal Theory 157 (2007).
  33. Transparency International. “Corruption Perception Index,” Transparency International, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  34. Tsebelis, George. Veto Players. How Political Institutions Work. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002.
  35. Tushnet, Mark. Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2014.
  36. Yesmukhanova, Yulia. “Score Changes in 2020,” Freedom House, 2020. Accessed December 25, 2021.
  37. Zveriev, Ievgen. “Interpretation Theories in Ukrainian Courts — Past and Present,” Acta Juridica Hungarica 56, no. 1 (March 2015).




How to Cite

Fonteles, S. (2021). Ukrainian Constitutional Court: Attacks and Backlash. Kyiv-Mohyla Law and Politics Journal, (7), 27–50.