[EDITORIALS]Judge on the wrong trackThe Constitutional Court has been asked to decide whether or not the current personnel system of judges is constitutional. Moon Heung-soo, a senior judge at the Seoul District Court, sent a constitutional petition to the court, arguing that the current personnel system for promotion and reappointment of judges and their wage system are unconstitutional. This is an unprecedented move by a senior judge.
Mr. Moon says in the petition that promotion to a bench on the High Court based on a performance evaluation by his superiors violates the constitutional right to pursue happiness, equality, individuality and obligations of public service. He also says that the reappointment system for judges after 10 years in office and judges' wage system also violate their constitutional rights. He proposes a system that allows judges to be evaluated on the basis of specific and objective facts; for example, the number of cases handled and the number of cases repealed. He also calls for a guaranteed retirement age for judges and same-time promotion of judges appointed in the same year to high court positions. He says he has thought about these matters over the last 20 years. He says he is making an issue of them now because he wants to enhance the people's trust in the courts and the the problems in the personnel system of the courts must change.
But there are problems with the points in his petition. We cannot agree with his saying, "Judges can gain the respect and trust of the people and handle the cases more for the benefit of the people if they are guaranteed a seat on the bench for life." Promoting all judges appointed in the same year to high courts at the same time is impossible. Guaranteeing the retirement age of judges in order to get rid of the bad old practice of giving special favors to retired judges who open a law office is ludicrous.
Lively debate is the best way to improve the judicial personnel system. Mr. Moon's petition can be a good start for public discussion. But it is not desirable to depend on outside institutions like the Constitutional Courts. More desirable is discussion among the judges themselves and a consensus from such internal debate.