[EDITORIALS]Corruption in legal affairsThe prosecution recently detained a police officer on charges of accepting bribes from a middleman to obtain clients for lawyers. The incident shows that our legal community is still not free of corruption. Two established lawyers had already been detained -- and released -- in connection with this case. Furthermore, the middleman in this case, a former policeman, had a list of 100 active-duty police officers who apparently were informants.
The legal community has been rife with corruption regarding litigation. In March 1998, 15 judicial officers were heavily reprimanded in Uijeongbu, and some of them resigned. In Daejeon, two senior judges and seven prosecutors stepped down in January 1999 after being charged with corruption. After such incidents, the government, the judicial authorities and the Korean Bar Association drafted measures to eradicate corruption. The Attorney-at-Law Act was revised to forbid employees of a court and a prosecutors office from acting as middlemen for attorneys. The code of ethics for judicial officials was reinforced so that a judge is barred from a case handled by a lawyer with whom he is personally acquainted.
Despite such measures, why does corruption still exist? It is because the measures were nothing but a hasty attempt to deal with wrongdoing after the fact. The Korean Bar Association’s ethics program for lawyers is a good example of bad governance. Attending ethics instruction became mandatory for the training of attorneys, and 150 judicial trainees took an ethics test in February. And yet, 50 of them were found cheating.
We are not criticizing investigators who informed defendants about how to hire a defense attorney. But, we are sure that an investigation will never proceed fairly, when an investigator refers a case handled by his team to a specific lawyer and receives payment, easily 20 percent of the lawyer’s fee, for his referral. To eradicate corruption from the legal community, the prosecution must sternly punish all involved. Ethics education for lawyers must be upgraded to stop the practice of paying middlemen for referrals.