[EDITORIALS]Keep judges independentAnother round of new appointees for the Supreme Court is planned for this July. This time, five justices will be replaced. After this reform, eight of the court’s 12 justices will have been changed since Lee Yong-hun was appointed chief justice.
The Supreme Court will probably start receiving recommendations for candidates this weekend. Early next month, committee meetings will be held to assess the qualifications of the candidates and to recommend them to the chief justice. By mid-June, those prospective justices will be recommended to the president for confirmation.
Mr. Lee became the head of the judical organization last September, to the pleasure and relief of many justices. However, his first nominations for the bench disappointed many judges. In an attempt to diversify the justices’ backgrounds and characteristics, he favored those who were backed by non-governmental law organizations or civic groups.
In his attempt to diversify the judges’ biases and appoint judges from many different schools, he ruined the established order.
Some judges say in sarcasm, “Building a good connection with civic groups is a faster way to get promoted than working in the court.”
Probably because of this atmosphere, nearly 80 judges have quit during the first four months of this year.
It is a good thing to diversify the composition of the Supreme Court. However, if justices are appointed for their connections rather than their competence, the foundation of democracy is threatened. If the judicial department does not check the administrative department, the principle of checks and balances is shaken. This is why the judicial power must stay independent.
If the judicial department does not stand firm under the pressure of outside organizations, the independence of the judicial department cannot be guaranteed. This is what is happening now. The independence of the judicial department is nothing that can be taken for granted. All the members at the department should do their best to keep their independence. Chief Justice Lee holds the most responsibility for that.
The Supreme Court must consist of judges who execute their duties in compliance with law and conscience, not those who obtained their posts by using political connections.
Mr. Lee was a legal representative for President Roh Moo-hyun at the trial for his impeachment. Because of this, some people suspect that Mr. Lee is determined to make an effort to appoint justices based not only on their competence.
We hope that he appoints the right people and proves this suspicion was groundless.