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Public Lawyer System to Expand Nationwide

Posted November. 02, 2005 05:07,   


The public lawyer system, currently effective in 11 local courts including the Seoul Central District Court, is expected to be expanded to 18 courts nationwide from next year.

According to the “2006 Public Lawyer Action Plans” released on November 1 by the Supreme Court, from March next year, public lawyers will be allowed to sign a two-year contract with each court and open a joint law firm together.

The number of lawyers will increase from the current number of 20 to 40 or 50, and the maximum number of cases they may handle each month will increase to 40 (from 25). Regarding income, they will be paid as much as eight million won if they fulfill the maximum number of cases (currently, the pre-tax monthly income is 6.25 million won).

The public lawyer system is a form of the “public defender” system, which has been pilot-tested from September of last year. Public lawyers are allowed to handle only the cases in which attorney fees are paid by the government. They are banned from defending on a personal level. However, from next year, they will be allowed to defend cases involving their relatives.

The Supreme Court is planning to establish a “commission of public lawyers (under the Ministry of Court Administration)” and a “supervisory commission of public lawyers (under the umbrella of the legal administrative agencies),” both of which will involve college professors and regular citizens. It would help guarantee fairness in the process of selecting public lawyers and systemic supervision and assistance for them.

One official at the Supreme Court said, “In the past, it was pointed out that lawyers seemed to regard public defending as a mere peripheral job and put in minimal effort. But since the public lawyer system has been under way, many say the quality of defense has increased,” adding, “Careers as public lawyers will be highly evaluated when they apply to become judges.”

Ji-Seong Jeon verso@donga.com