Shining a Light on Ukraine’s Judicial System, Court on the Palm Allows to Access Court Rulings in Just a Few Clicks

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Capricious and opaque legal decisions continue to be one of the main problems facing the Ukrainian justice system. But Ukrainians aren’t waiting for the system to change on its own. Activists and startups are working to improve the legal system to safeguard the rights of all citizens. One such startup is the Court on the Palm, an open-data online application that helps solve two main problems facing the judicial system: non-transparency and inconsistency of judicial practice.

Kyrylo Zakharov, the co-founder and Director of the Court on the Palm project, was always a big proponent of open data. Since 2013, his team often found themselves in situations lacking access to judicial information they needed to defend their clients in court. The team had to go through a huge number of sources and spend a lot of time to find the similar cases. It became clear: they needed a tool that would optimize and speed up the process of legal data monitoring. 

So, when open data became more popular in Ukraine and the Court Decision Registry was made public in 2017, the team rejoiced. Finally they could create a special tool  that would allow lawyers to conveniently search for and view existing court decisions. 

The need turned out to be much bigger than they imagined, as not only legal professionals, but also businesses, journalists, and NGOs working on anti-corruption issues required access to the data. Businesses wanted info that would help them assess risks and verify parties to legal proceedings. Journalists wanted the resource for fact-checking, investigating and monitoring trends. Anti-corruption activists were looking for info to reveal connections between people, such as relationships between certain judges and prosecutors.

To bring the idea to life, the team needed professional and financial support. Thus, when they heard about the 2017 Open Data Challenge, a national competition run by the Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services Activity (TAPAS) and funded by USAID and UK Aid, they immediately applied.

Through the Open Data Challenge, the Court on the Palm team received 500,000 hryvnia ($18,600) to launch a “Google service” for lawyers. Their application helps lawyers visualize information from the register of court decisions and 14 other topic-related registers using keywords and up to 39 different filters. 

“Participation in the Open Data Challenge has opened tremendous opportunities for us: we received valuable help from mentors and we came to better understand the nuances of business development and doing business based on open data", said Zakharov.

Officially launched in December 2018, the Court on the Palm application has been a tremendous success. Currently, it has more than 15,000 active users monthly and above 200,000 unique users in total. The app is available in both a basic and an advanced version. The basic system functions are available for free, while all additional features, such as access to the full list of registers, 39 search filters, and visualizations of court decisions are available for a fee. Users may purchase additional functionalities through daily, monthly, or yearly subscription packages. The Court on the Palm is free for journalists.

The success of Court on the Palm and other startups demonstrates that with a small investment and the promotion of open data usage, Ukrainians can develop and implement creative solutions to fighting systemic corruption.