[EDITORIALS]Short memories at court

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[EDITORIALS]Short memories at court

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that real estate agents must repay any brokerage commission they receive that exceeds the legal limit. This ruling, however, contradicts a previous ruling.

According to the Supreme Court's procedural regulations, a chamber of judges must rule unanimously in order to overturn a former ruling. The Supreme Court failed to do so in this case, and the chamber of judges had not been aware that there had been a previous ruling.

Real estate agents and excessive commissions are a common dispute, but the legal limit for commissions is ridiculously low, so agents commonly inflate their commissions and are not censured. The Supreme Court's ruling is sure to stir controversy because it touches on an everyday interest of average Koreans.

Resistance from real estate agents will certainly follow, as will lawsuits by persons demanding refunds from their agents.

It says something about our legal system that the panel of judges deciding this case did not know about a previous ruling earlier this year by their colleagues. All real estate brokers know that they have "no obligation to return any commission overcharges" based on a Supreme Court ruling only last March. Only the new panel of judges seemed to be in the dark.

What is more absurd is that the senior justice in this case was the presiding judge of the March case.

The Supreme Court is a symbol of trustworthiness and dependability in justice, from whom no mistake or blunder is allowed in its rulings. Each justice has 20 research assistants, including three reputable judges, to help them in their rulings. A Supreme Court justice rules on over 1,300 cases a year, admittedly not an easy task, but that is no excuse for this kind of mistake.

A mistake by Supreme Court justices directly affects the honor of the entire judicial system. Public distrust in the judicial system in turn leads to a compromise of the independence of the judicial branch. The Supreme Court should put some reforms into place to ensure that such an embarrassment does not happen again.
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