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Pretense without substance

Posted May. 21, 2024 08:02,   

Updated May. 21, 2024 08:02


An insider within the court has criticized the Supreme Court Justice Candidate Recommendation Committee's review process as inadequate during the selection of new Supreme Court Justices. Judge Ahn Eun-ji served on the committee recommending successors to former Supreme Court Justices Min Yoo-sook and Ahn Cheol-sang, posted on the internal bulletin board. “There was only one meeting scheduled to start at 3 p.m.,” Ahn said. “There was insufficient time to share diverse opinions despite having sufficient information for all those under review.” The recommendation committee comprises 10 members, including senior Supreme Court Justices, the Director of the National Court Administration, and the Minister of Justice. Judge Ahn attended as a representative of general judges.

The recommendation committee is responsible for verifying those who have agreed to the review among those recommended by the public and recommending at least three times the number of candidates to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The judgments and papers of those under review are provided to the recommending committee members in advance. However, data that the National Court Administration separately researched is said to be distributed on the day of the meeting. At that time, the recommendation committee reviewed 42 people in a meeting that lasted about three and a half hours and recommended six to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This amounts to about five minutes per person, which is too tight to review the data, discuss it, and decide on a recommender.

As a result, it is being pointed out that the candidates to be recommended are predetermined to some extent, making the screening a formality. A chief judge sparked controversy by claiming that during the 2020 selection of Supreme Court Justices, an official from the National Court Administration mentioned a specific person to the chairman of the recommendation committee, and that candidate was actually appointed as a Supreme Court Justice. Questions about the fairness of the review persist. This is why Judge Ahn stated, “The procedures and process that led to the recommendation of the final candidate need to be made public.”

The recommendation committee commenced operations in 2011 following revisions to the Court Organization Act. Addressing criticisms of the ineffectiveness of the Supreme Court Recommendation Advisory Committee, which operated according to the Supreme Court's rules, the establishment of the Recommendation Committee was enshrined in law, with specific composition methods outlined. The legislative purpose is to mitigate external influence in the Supreme Court Justices' selection process and oversee the Chief Justice's personnel authority. To fulfill this mandate, the recommendation committee must conduct its reviews independently and faithfully.

The Supreme Court is currently selecting successors for the three justices retiring in August. Immediate measures, such as extending the duration of the recommendation committee meetings to ensure thorough reviews, should be implemented promptly. There must not be any lapse throughout the entire process, from the recommendation stage to the Supreme Court Chief Justice's endorsement, the National Assembly's consent to the appointment, and the president's final appointment.