[EDITORIALS]The new Supreme Court

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[EDITORIALS]The new Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will replace some of its justices for the second time since Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun was appointed. Three justices were replaced in November and this time there will be five changes. Almost two-thirds of the 13 justices will be replaced after this round of appointments. Mr. Lee nominated two justices last year who were considered progressive and backed by liberal civic groups, so the new justices will decide the overall political temperament of the court system.
Experts from a variety of fields are needed in order for the Supreme Court to reflect the changed times and to mediate conflicts and confrontations. Perhaps this is why Chief Justice Lee has put emphasis on diversifying the composition of the Supreme Court.
The problem is, however, that some people use the word “diversifying” when what they are trying to do is to fill the bench with people who share the same interests and philosophy they do.
Diversifying justices by looking at their backgrounds ― in other words, categorizing them by the schools that they attended, in the home town they grew up in or whether they are sitting judges or not ― is not always a good thing. Justices screened through such a process might turn out to be incompetent in executing their duties.
Last year, each justice handled an average of 1,563 cases, or about 130 cases per month. This is an amazing number compared to the number of cases, 87, that a U.S. federal judge handles yearly. It is hard for a Supreme Court justice to execute his duty properly without sufficient knowledge of the law and trial procedures. All citizens are entitled to have a trial without delay. If judicial rulings, which are directly related to citizens’ lives and assets, are delayed because of a justice’s lack of knowledge or skills, that harms people.
A former chief justice, Choi Jong-young, said he emphasized professionalism in judges over diversifying the composition of the bench. He made that remark probably because he was concerned that problems stemming from a lack of professionalism could arise.
Earlier this year Mr. Lee said, “Judges execute their duties in the names of the people, and judges’ rulings must be understandable to the majority of the people.” If judges execute their duties with the power given them by the people, the appointment of new justices should reflect the people’s will. The results of last week’s local elections were the people’s verdict on ideological appointments in the judicial branch.
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