[EDITORIALS]Judges and moral standardsA senior judge of a district court played golf with an executive of a construction company that is being tried by him over a contract for a building project. As the chief justice of the district court was there, it is suspected that the golf gathering was a “treat” with a hidden intention.
There is no reason for the judges not to play golf. It is recommendable that they play golf with their relatives and colleagues as a means of physical exercise. But it is apparently wrong that the judge in charge of litigation plays golf with an interested party in the case. It is regulated in the ethical code of the judges that “unless there is a need for litigation, a judge should not contact people connected with a litigation case, including the litigants and their legal representatives, outside of the court.”
If the senior judge went to play golf knowing that a litigant was included in the gathering, it is a serious problem. This means that he was either not aware of the ethical code, or he violated it although he knew of the code. It is known that he insists that he went there without knowing that an executive of the construction company would join him and that he exchanged greetings with him for the first time at the golf course. Even if that is true, playing golf with a litigant cannot be pardoned. When he found a litigant in the group, he should have stopped playing and turned back home. That is the right attitude of a judge.
The behavior of the chief justice of the district court is also questionable. Although he knew that his high school junior and an executive of a construction company was in the golfing group, he did not confirm whether the senior judge who was accompanying him was involved in a litigation related to the company. When he attends a function where business executives are present, it is his duty to investigate closely whether the function has to do with a case the accompanying judge is in charge of and whether it was for currying special favor with the court. The Supreme Court launched an investigation swiftly and held the two responsible by accepting the resignation of the chief district justice and transferring the senior judge to another position.
The judiciary is the last bastion of keeping the rule of law. Judges are asked to keep high moral standards, higher than any other profession.