[EDITORIALS]Good choices for the bench

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[EDITORIALS]Good choices for the bench

Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun recommended yesterday five candidates for new justices to President Roh Moo-hyun. The candidates are Ahn Dae-hee, the head of Seoul High Prosecutors Office, and four heads of district courts, including Lee Hong-hoon, the head of Seoul Central Court. The Supreme Court said it selected the final list after it had analyzed dozens of candidates’ rulings and other writings and evaluated their ethics, including checks of whether they had completed military service. In this round of new appointees, professionalism in the law was the most important factor, because four of the candidates were sitting judges.
The Supreme Court is the institution that gives final judgments on a variety of conflicts and interprets the laws that the people and national bodies must abide by. Therefore, justices should be people who protect the independence of the law and are knowledgeable, instead of those who share the same ideology as that of the administration.
The Supreme Court said it tried to diversify the composition of the bench. That is why Mr. Ahn, who used to be a prosecutor, and Chon Soo-an, the head of Gwangju District Court, were included. Mr. Ahn, a specialist in tax and criminal law, earned a nickname, “the people’s prosecutor,” because of his 2002 investigations into illegal campaign donations by conglomerates.
Ms. Chon has shown a progressive stance in rulings to protect minority groups and the underprivileged, but she is very determined in terms of law and principles. She found guilty the head of a gathering of girl students who started a candlelight vigil without getting a permit, saying that acts that go beyond the Constitution and the law cannot be sanctioned.
The Seoul Central District Court head, Mr. Lee, is known for his rulings faithful to basic legal rights such as freedom of speech. People inside the court and conservative and progressive civic groups said Mr. Lee deserved to become a justice. Park Ill-hwan and Kim Neung-hwan are also knowledgeable and skilled.
It is a relief that the candidates were not nominated on the basis of their ideology. Diversification of the composition of the bench is needed for the Supreme Court to faithfully play its role as a mediator between many different interests. Keeping the court independent from political power is also important. We need to make certain that the Supreme Court can protect the values of the Constitution, no matter what administration may be in the Blue House.
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