[FOUNTAIN]A light on the SupremesOn Dec. 12, 2000, the world was looking closely at the United States Supreme Court. The decision of the court could change the presidency of the country. The court ruled against a manual recount of all ballots in Florida, which confirmed that George Bush had been elected president of the United States. Mr. Bush was called sarcastically a selected president, not an elected one.
The court was sharply divided, ruling for Mr. Bush 5-4. That morning, just before the decision was announced, the Wall Street Journal reported that the court’s ruling would affect the careers of some justices. It said two conservative judges, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 79, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 73, would postpone their retirements if Al Gore became the president. According to the report, the two judges were worried that Mr. Gore would select liberals as their replacements, even though they were said to have been considering retirement for age and health reasons. The report quoted Ms. O’Connor’s husband as saying his wife was disappointed that Mr. Gore might be elected. With Mr. Bush’s election, rumors are circulating about imminent retirements.
“The Pelican Brief,” a novel by John Grisham, begins with the assassinations of two Supreme Court judges. A businessman hired killers to remove the judges before an expected unfavorable ruling so the president could name new ones.
In their roles as final legal arbiters, affairs press heavily on the shoulders of all supreme court justices of the world, especially in the United States. Media report seriously on every decision, along with analyses of the justices’ individual votes. Candidates for the posts run the risk of having all their privacy stripped away and their lives examined closely.
In Korea, people are interested in the procedure for naming Supreme Court judges. They have a six-year tenure and must retire at 65. The selection procedures have been criticized as clannish and opaque: judicial tenure is a major consideration. Some complain that the procedure breeds judicial bias, and civic groups and lawyers’ associations have recommended candidates for the highest court’s bench for the first time in Korean history. While many people are raising their eyebrows at the unbridled activism of these groups, that want to meddle in the nominations, their actions may increase transparency and understanding of the court’s workings.
by Lee Se-jung
The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.