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Can Chief Justice nominee be the guardian of rattling judiciary?

Can Chief Justice nominee be the guardian of rattling judiciary?

Posted September. 14, 2017 08:15,   

Updated September. 14, 2017 08:34


Two-day confirmation hearing on the Supreme Court's Chief Justice nominee Kim Myung-soo ended Wednesday. Given that the Chief Justice should bear heavy responsibility, candidate undergoes an appointment procedure and gain consent from the National Assembly according to the Constitutional Law. In the meanwhile, a lack of thorough screening by the opposition parties has left much to be desired, let alone the suspicions thrown on Kim's relatively insufficient experience. Lawmakers at the hearing raised their eyebrows on Kim who led study groups of progressive judges called the Society of Korean Law and international human rights law and have no experience as the justice of the Supreme Court, but it is disappointing to see the lack of scrutiny in his past judgments or past traits.

It was the members of the Society of Korean Law, such as former Chief Justice Park Shi-hwan or the then-Minister of Justice Kang Geum-shil, who reigned the judicial power during the former Roh Moo-hyun administration. Moreover, they caused a dispute as they disgraced former presidents when the conservative party took the majority. Kim claimed during the hearing that (unlike Park or Kang), he was not the founding member of the Society of Korean Law. Indeed, Kim never evoked criticism by making degrading remarks or lopsided judgments, and there are no moral hazards found in him. Nevertheless, Kim should face the stark reality that the current society is not comfortable with former members of the Society of Korean Law.

When asked on the blacklist of judges raised by the National Meeting of Judges, Kim said, “When appointed as the Chief Justice, I will review on whether I should request for further investigation to go through the list once again.” Though the statement was not a definitive answer, it still lacked carefulness. The alleged black list of judges is still a baseless doubt, and does not certainly go well with the judiciary circle, thinking that the desktops at the Office of Court Administration should be investigated as if probing a desktop of a criminal. There are also concerns that the investigation may lead to a comprehensive reshuffling of the Judiciary, given the possibility that documents such as assessments in reappointing judges may be tampered and be misled as blacklist.

Kim left a comment worth dwelling on, as he said, “(Once appointed), I will leave the recommendation right to appoint Supreme Court justices to the recommendation committee and I will not intervene at all.” President Moon Jae-in is responsible for naming 10 new Supreme Court justices based on the recommendations provided by Kim. To protect the independency of judiciary from one-sided appointments, the current nominee recommended by the incumbent administration should step back and give actual authority to recommendation committee members.

On a ceremony commemorating the Day of Law on Wednesday, Chief Justice Yang Seung-tae said, "An excessive attack beyond productive criticism is marring the independency of the Court.” It seems that Yang sharpened his criticism to the prosecutors and the ruling party, which took an unprecedented aggressive stance towards the rejected warrant on “the investigation on online comments made by the National Intelligence Service.” Against this backdrop, the judiciary is facing serious challenges. To be appointed, Kim needs to earn the majority of support at the Assembly plenary session. Therefore, it is up to the National Assembly to make a wise decision based on the independence of the judiciary, not politically motivated judgements.