Judge’s insult to senior plaintiff infringes rights

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Judge’s insult to senior plaintiff infringes rights

The National Human Rights Commission said yesterday that a judge who called a plaintiff “rude” in the middle of trial infringed the plaintiff’s human rights, and advised the head of Seoul Central District Court to warn the judge and set policies to ensure nothing similar happen again.

The story goes back to last April, when the 69-year old plaintiff spoke out to the judge immediately after the attorneys finished their arguments.

“Your honor,” the plaintiff said politely.

“Quiet,” the 40-year-old judge shot back. “How dare you rudely try to intervene [in the trial]?”

The plaintiff said he was at a loss for words after the judge’s comment. The plaintiff’s attorney, who was also in the courtroom, said he was as offended and baffled as his client.

Just a day after the trial, the attorney resigned, saying he had not been able to deal with the issue properly and had failed to protect the plaintiff.

In June, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the state-run human rights watchdog, arguing that the scolding severely infringed his human rights. The commission advised the Seoul Central District Court to warn the judge for his misbehavior.

The nation’s human rights watchdog said in its report that the judge argued that “although he remembers he sternly reprimanded the plaintiff for intervening in the trial, he can’t recall the exact wording he used.”

“Even if the plaintiff’s act was out of order, a 40-year old judge cannot use such words to a 69-year-old under the social norms, even if the judge did have the right to lead the trial,” the commission said. It said the judge should have warned the plaintiff without harming his dignity.

The Seoul Central District Court accepted the commission’s recommendation and promised it will more tightly monitor trials.

“An increasing number of people make outrageous arguments in trials,” an official at the Supreme Court said. “But regardless the circumstances, [the judge] should avoid making aggressive remarks that hurt the feelings of [the parties].”

A judge turned attorney confessed that judges in fact sometimes get angry in the middle of trials.

“But they should endure the anger and proceed with the trial,” the attorney said.

By Kang Ki-heon, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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