[EDITORIALS]Judiciary should be bias-freeThe Judiciary Reform Committee of the Supreme Court, which will conclude Dec. 27, is reportedly agonizing over the issue of overhauling the Supreme Court.
The panel is of the opinion that when final appeals courts are established as five high courts in the nation, they will make final rulings in civil litigation cases. But lawyers and others in the legal circles insist on increasing the number of Supreme Court judges from 14 to 20.
Even if a final appeals court is established in the high courts or the number of judges increases, the fact remains that the workloads of Supreme Court judges are too heavy. The court deliberates over 20,000 cases annually with only 13 justices.
Each Supreme Court judge in Korea must handle 130 cases monthly, which is five times more than what a judge in Japan’s highest court handles and 20 to 30 times more than what the German or American counterpart sees. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to expect an in-depth examination of all the issues in a case.
The Korean Bar Association and others in the profession say that it would be difficult to keep all the decisions of the courts straight if the final appeals courts are at five high courts scattered around the nation. But if the number of Supreme Court judges is increased, it will be difficult to expect that they would make a unified interpretation of legal provisions.
Some view the move to increase the number of judges as a campaign to dilute the composition of the Supreme Court, which tends to lean to the right. If their suspicion is true, it is a dangerous idea, one that would fill the court with judges who share the same views and agendas as the ruling camp. The Supreme Court is the last bastion of the free democratic system. It should not be filled with biased people.
Moreover, out of the 14 judges, 13 will finish their term during this administration. Already two judges have been replaced by the president, and six judges, including Chief Justice Choi Jong-young, will step down next year. If the Supreme Court expands and is filled with people sharing the same agenda as the Blue House, the independence of the judiciary will be undermined.
The focus of reform should be on the independence of the judiciary and the efficiency of trials, not on filling the Supreme Court with people who share the same biases.