Assembly delays justice reforms

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Assembly delays justice reforms


At the National Assembly yesterday, Lee Ju-young, center, chairman of the special committee on judicial reform, moderates the discussion between the Grand National Party and the Democratic Party over proposed reform measures with GNP Representative Joo Seong-young, left, and DP Representative Kim Dong-cheol, right. [YONHAP]

Bowing to fierce protests from prosecutors and judges, the National Assembly delayed yesterday an ambitious program to overhaul the country’s justice system until June.

Three plans to overhaul the laws governing the nation’s judiciary, prosecution and private attorneys, drafted by a six-member subcommittee, were deliberated by a special committee yesterday.

The most ambitious two plans - to shut down an elite prosecution unit and increase the number of Supreme Court justices - got bogged down in argument and objections, and the committee decided to delay any action until June.

It agreed, however, to approve a minor reform revising the law governing private attorneys during this month’s legislative session.

The reform for private lawyers is meant to end a tacit arrangement in the country’s legal system under which retired judges and prosecutors who return to practicing law are given special treatment by their former colleagues on the bench and in the prosecution.

To stop that practice, the law will be changed to prevent judges, prosecutors, lawyers and military judicial officers from taking cases in jurisdictions where they worked before for one year after retirement.

While the special committee agreed to the principle yesterday, it said more discussions were needed to decide whether to apply the rule only to criminal cases or to include administrative and civil cases as well.

The committee also agreed to vote this month on a new requirement that every law school student has to intern for at least six months at a law firm before graduation.

“To make the concerned revision during this legislative session, the special committee will approve it this month,” said Grand National Party Representative Lee Ju-young, chair of the special committee.

On the delayed reforms, lawmakers on the committee agreed in principle to shut down the powerful and controversial central investigation unit of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, whose political neutrality has been continually questioned.

Although there were differing opinions on how to do it, lawmakers said that reform was unavoidable and criticized prosecutors for resisting the change.

“If the prosecutors had carried out stern and fair investigations from the start, the public would probably still trust them,” said prosecutor-turned-lawmaker Lee Han-sung of the GNP.

Democratic Party Representative Lew Seon-ho also criticized the prosecution for challenging the legislature’s move. “They must accept that there is no way for us to step back from this reform,” said Lew.

Another GNP lawmaker, Joo Kwang-deok, also said the reform was not a collision between the legislature and the prosecution and not an attempt to stop prosecutors from investigating lawmakers. “The plan to shut down the central investigation unit is to uphold the people’s demand,” he said.

Established in 1981, the powerful unit has handled high-profile cases, including slush fund scandals involving former presidents and massive influence-peddling investigations involving politicians and businessmen. But its political neutrality has been questioned for years.

The unit investigated an influence-peddling scandal involving the late former President Roh Moo-hyun and his family. During his term, Roh had tried to shut down the unit, which was directly supervised by the prosecutor general, but failed due to fierce opposition from the prosecution. Roh committed suicide after he was questioned by the unit in 2009, reigniting the debate in the legislature and among the public on its fate.

The special committee on judicial reform said last month that the time had come for the unit to be dismantled. The committee said an independent investigative agency should be established to replace it for handling corruption and power abuse cases involving senior public servants, including lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.

Since the plan was made public, the prosecution has strongly condemned the move, calling it an attempt to “disarm the watchdog over high-profile economic, political and corruption cases.”

While most lawmakers support the plan to shut down the unit, Representative Yeo Sang-Kyu of the GNP defended it, saying it has exposed many massive economic and financial crimes.

“We need more consideration about shutting it down,” Yeo said.

The committee on judicial reform also wants to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from the current 14 to 20, but has faced strong protests from the judiciary.

“A Supreme Court justice handles 2,600 cases every year,” said Representative Roh Chul-rae of the Future Hope Alliance. “I agree that more justices are needed.”

Representative Cho Bae-sook of the DP, who used to be a judge, disagreed, along with Representative Hong Il-pyo of the GNP.

The committee decided that subcommittees on prosecution and judiciary reform will have more meetings in May on the sensitive issues.

GNP Representative Lee Ju-young, chair of the special committee, said the reform measures should be approved in June after further discussions.

By Ser Myo-ja []

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

판검사 전관예우 금지 이달 처리

사개특위 전체회의 합의
중수부 폐지, 특수청 설치 이견
6월 국회서 개정안 처리키로

국회 사법제도개혁특위(사개특위)는 20일 전체회의를 열고 법조계의 고질적 관행인 ‘전관예우(前官禮遇)’를 금지하기 위해 변호사법 개정안을 4월 말 국회에서 우선 처리키로 했다고 밝혔다. 사개특위는 이날 법원·검찰·변호사소위 위원장들로부터 사법개혁안에 대한 각 소위 합의안을 보고받고 논의한 끝에 이같이 결정했다.

변호사법 개정안은 판검사, 장기복무 군법무관, 변호자 자격이 있는 공무원이 퇴직 후 변호사로 개업할 경우 퇴직 전 1년간 근무했던 기관에서 취급하는 민사·형사·행정사건의 수임을 1년간 금지하는 내용이다. 이 법안은 이달 말 국회를 통과하면 2013년 4월 시행된다. 개정안은 또 로스쿨을 졸업한 변호사시험 합격자는 법원·경찰청·법무법인 등에서 6개월 이상 실무수습을 마쳐야 법률사무소 개업 등이 가능하도록 했다.

개정안은 다음 주 법제사법위원회를 통과하면 28∼29일 본회의에서 처리될 것으로 보인다.

사개특위는 그러나 ▶대검 중수부 직접 수사 기능 폐지 ▶특별수사청 설치 ▶대법관 20명으로 증원 등을 비롯한 법원·검찰개혁안은 여야 의원들 간에 의견이 첨예하게 맞서 최종결론을 내리지 못했다. 사개특위는 4·27 재·보궐선거 이후 법원·검찰소위를 열어 의견 수렴을 추가로 한 뒤 6월 국회에서 관련법 개정안을 처리키로 했다.

핵심 쟁점 가운데 대검 중수부 수사 기능 폐지는 총론에서는 합의가 됐으나 방법론을 놓고 견해가 엇갈렸다. 민주당 박영선 의원은 “대검 중수부 수사 기능 폐지는 소위 의원들 전원이 동의했지만 법률로 규정하자는 견해와 대통령령을 개정해 검찰이 스스로 판단하게 하자는 의견이 맞섰다”고 전했다.

경찰의 수사개시권 명문화, 검찰청법에 규정된 경찰의 복종의무 삭제안도 반대 의견이 거의 없어 사개특위에서 확정될 가능성이 커졌다.

그러나 특별수사청 설치와 대법관 증원 문제를 놓고는 격론이 벌어졌다.

민주당 신건 의원은 “특별수사청은 설치돼야 하고 그 수사 대상을 확대하는 방향으로 검토해야 한다”고 말했다. 반면 한나라당 손범규 의원은 “공직비리수사처도 특별수사청도 안 된다는 게 한나라당의 입장”이라고 강조했다.

한나라당 주성영 의원은 “상고심 제도 개편을 위해 대법원 대법관을 총 20명으로 증원해 9명씩 제1·2전원합의체를 만들기로 소위 의견을 모았다”고 밝혔다.

영장항고제 관련 조건부석방제도는 도입하지 않되 새로운 사실이나 증거가 있을 때만 검찰이 영장을 재청구할 수 있게 하자는 쪽으로 의견이 모아졌다.

이날 전체회의가 큰 충돌 없이 끝나자 대법원과 법무부·대검 관계자들은 “일단 급한 불은 껐고 정치권을 설득할 시간적 여유를 얻었다”며 안도하는 분위기였다. 대검의 한 간부는 “중수부 폐지 등 3대 핵심 쟁점은 절대 받아들일 수 없다는 게 일관된 입장”이라며 “국회 논의에 계속 참여해 설득해 나갈 것”이라고 말했다.

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