[EDITORIALS]Public opinion as pretextThe Supreme Court is in perplexity after it was made public that the Korean Bar Association will recommend a lawyer and a judge as candidates to fill a court vacancy that will open up in September. Some civic groups last month launched campaigns to recommend candidates. KBS TV plans a special broadcast early next month about reform of the judicial authorities.
We believe that the bar association and advocacy groups have the right to express their opinions about the lineup of the Supreme Court, and that media also are entitled to advocate court reform. But naming a supreme court judge and reforming the judiciary must not be influenced by outside pressures masquerading as public opinion. The Supreme Court must be the last stronghold of good sense in our society. Shaking that good sense on the pretext of respect for public opinion will quickly drive our society’s standards of value into chaos. It is important to listen to a senior judge’s warning: “Some activists criticize Supreme Court rulings unfavorable to them and denounce judges as conservatives. Such practices not only contradict the truth, but also imply an attempt to tame the court.”
The constitution stipulates that the president is to name Supreme Court justices at the request of the court’s chief justice and with approval by the National Assembly. Because of criticism that nominations were arranged behind closed doors, the Supreme Court has drafted an internal regulation requiring an advisory committee to discuss the nominations. Outside figures are to attend the committee’s meetings, but are asked not to reveal the substance of the discussions in order to protect the reputations of those not selected.
Naming a judge must follow these procedures. But the bar association and the civic groups are making public the names of their nominations. We see that as an attempt to press candidates with certain characteristics. A judicial body must have full charge of its affairs. Only when the people recognize a court’s authority will we have an independent judiciary. If public opinion is abused in the name of reform, justice will never be free from politics and power.