Rough justice?The judiciary has been drawn into a whirlpool.
It was belatedly revealed that Supreme Court Justice Shin Young-chul sent e-mails to criminal trial judges regarding the trials for candlelight vigil cases when he was serving as head of the Seoul Central District Court last year.
The core of the issue is whether Supreme Court Justice Shin’s remark, “I hope you go through standard procedure and reach a conclusion according to the current law,” can be seen as putting pressure on judges.
If his intention, as some argue, was to pull the judges one way, Shin’s remarks can be seen as unduly pressuring the judges.
Judges basically make rulings according to the Constitution, the law and their own conscience.
No one should apply undue pressure on any judge to guarantee a fair trial.
But in this case, Shin’s e-mails can be seen as a reasonable act of supervision as the head of Seoul Central District Court.
There is no problem if a court head encourages subordinate judges to make swift rulings because he is worried about delays. Encouraging judges to make rulings properly is a court head’s duty and his judicial administrative right.
Of course, Shin’s remark, “I heard that the chief justice of the Supreme Court did not have a different opinion from me,” seems to have caused some misunderstanding. Still, his remarks cannot be construed as an outright wrongdoing.
The case is causing a stir because two problems are delicately intertwined: the independence of judges and judicial administration supervision rights of a district court’s chief justice. Moreover, even inside the judiciary there are acutely divergent views on the candlelight vigils against the resumption of U.S. beef imports and the Law on Assembly and Demonstration, which triggered this issue.
This is why we need to know the truth about whether or not Shin interfered in the trials. To do so, we need to know the entire background to the e-mails. It should be made clear why they were sent, the circumstances of the trials at the time and whether or not the judges felt any pressure.
And the limit of judicial administration rights has to be made clear, too.
The fact-finding task should be conducted in a objective and cool-headed manner, and should be concluded in a swift manner to prevent the spread of any unnecessary commotion related with this incident.