Top court studying liberal set of judges

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Top court studying liberal set of judges

As conservative pressure to break up a research group of liberal judges grows, the Supreme Court has launched an internal investigation into the Society for Research on Our Law, a spokesman of the nation’s highest court said yesterday.

“Accepting the politicians’ recommendation that the judiciary should be aware of the actual situation associated with private organizations of judges such as the Society for Research on Our Law and the Society for Research on Cases of Civil Law, a survey is currently ongoing,” said Lee Dong-keun, a spokesman for the Supreme Court. “We will not only examine research groups, but also sports and other groups to find out the number of private associations and their members. We will also check to see if they are engaged in any activities that are against judicial ethics.”

The probe comes after Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon’s recent warning that judges not make rulings based on personal preferences. At the inauguration ceremony of newly appointed judges last week, Lee said “an unusual, unilateral decision of a judge that is unacceptable to other judges cannot be seen as conscience.” He also said that “a standard that is not acceptable as a society’s norms must never be packaged as a judge’s conscience.”

Though the new survey has fueled speculation that the Supreme Court will decide the fate of the Society for Research on Our Law, a senior court official denied that is the intent.

“We are looking into various groups, and the Society for Research on Our Law happens to be one of them,” he said. “We have no plan to take action against it.”

The society, established in 1988, came under heavy fire this winter after a series of alleged “left-leaning” verdicts. As concern rose over the political power wielded by liberal judges, the Grand National Party pressed for the breakup of the society for allegedly influencing high-profile decisions.

The society was formed during the Roh Tae-woo administration to protest the president’s decision to retain Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Young-chul from the previous Chun Doo Hwan regime. About 430 judges joined the group at the time, and their move eventually led to Kim’s resignation.

The society today is believed to have about 130 members, but a list of members has not been made public.

The conservative pressure reached a peak in late January when five MBC production staffers were acquitted of charges that they defamed government officials and obstructed the business of U.S. beef importers by broadcasting controversial “PD Diary” episodes about mad cow disease in 2008.

Supreme Court Justice Park Ill-hoan, who is also the minister of national court administration, however, told the National Assembly that it is impossible for the court to take action because the society did not commit any illegality. Though the court has maintained that position, the Grand Nationals have continued their attacks.

The liberal judges’ group says it will not succumb to pressure. “The conservatives’ demand is nothing new. We won’t be bothered and will continue our activities,” Oh Jae-seong, a senior judge of the Suwon District Court who heads the Society for Research on Our Law, said last month. Judge Moon Hyung-bae of Busan District Court, former head of the society, wrote Tuesday night on his Twitter page that group members were in danger of being excluded from reappointment unless they leave the society.

Moon later said he was merely reacting to the GNP wrath and that he actually doesn’t believe the Supreme Court will take action against society members.


By Ser Myo-ja, Choe Sun-uk [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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대법, 법원 내 사조직 조사


대법원이 진보 성향 판사들의 모임으로 알려진 우리법연구회를 비롯한 법원 내 단체에 대한 실태 조사에 착수했다.

이동근 대법원 공보관은 3일 “국회 법제사법위원회에서 ‘우리법연구회·민사판례연구회 등의 현황 정도는 파악하고 있어야 한다’는 지적이 나옴에 따라 모임의 수와 회원 구성, 활동 내용 등에 대해 조사하고 있다”고 말했다. 이 공보관은 그러나 “앞으로의 조치나 방향에 대해선 정해진 게 없고 특정 모임이나 단체를 겨냥한 것도 아니다”고 덧붙였다.

이에 따라 법원행정처는 각 연구회·학회 등에 회원 명단과 논문발표 여부 등 관련 자료 제출을 요청한 것으로 알려졌다. 이번 실태 조사가 끝나는 대로 대법원이 우리법연구회 등에 대해 어떤 조치를 취할지 주목된다. 이에 대해 대법원 고위관계자는 “현황 파악 대상에 우리법연구회 등이 포함돼 있는 것일 뿐 특정 모임에 대해 어떤 조치를 내리겠다는 식의 계획은 없다”고 말했다. 그러나 이번 조사가 한나라당의 ‘법원 내 사조직’ 문제 제기에서 비롯됐다는 사실은 부인하지 않고 있다. 앞서 한나라당 의원들은 지난 1월 국회 법제사법위원회 회의에서 박일환 법원행정처장에게 “우리법연구회의 명단이나 활동 상황조차 모르고 있다는 게 말이 되느냐”고 지적한 바 있다.

◆연구회 가이드라인 마련 움직임=현재 법원 내에서는 우리법연구회와 보수 성향으로 알려진 민사판례연구회와 형사판례연구회를 비롯해 헌법학회·노동법학회·형사소송법학회 등의 모임이 활동하고 있다. 하지만 그 개수와 가입 인원 등은 분명치 않다. 최소 100여 개에 이를 것으로 추정되고 있을 뿐이다.

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