The raw words of a few cruel judges
Everyone who has had to file a lawsuit - or was accused in a lawsuit - thinks it. It is not because the legal jargon is confusing or because being in court is just frustrating. Each step in a trial is an ordeal: A best friend can become a foe, and a relative can become a total stranger.
The people who still file lawsuits or who have been forced to enter courtrooms despite such experiences must have been resolutely determined. In such circumstances, a single word from a judge, the absolute authority in a courtroom, can be terrifying. It’s a hopeless feeling.
According to Supreme Court data provided to Saenuri Representative Lee Han-sung, 69 complaints were filed from 2009 until April 2013 concerning inappropriate remarks made by judges. Only two were punished.
One judge was punished for saying, “When you are old, you must die,” during his questioning last year of a female witness in her 60s. He eventually stepped down after the incident. Another judge received a written warning. No action was taken in the other 67 cases. The Supreme Court added in its report that “the complaints were mere arguments from the petitioners and they are not necessarily objective truths.”
The contexts of the judges’ remarks cited in the complaints must be reviewed carefully. But unfortunately, the words are extremely cruel.
According to one report, during a civil case concerning a child whose face was mauled by a dog, the judge scolded the victim, saying: “You are also at fault. Why were you beaten by a dog?”
And in a Seoul court, when a witness presented a certificate of disability to the judge to notify him about a hearing problem, the judge mentioned a specific company’s name and said, “Does this company only have these kind of people?”
The report also showed that another judge said, “You, woman, were beaten because you deserved it.”
The court’s indifference to judges’ inappropriate words is an insult to other hard-working professionals. The petitioners likely lost their faith in the rule of the law after seeing how their complaints were handled.
A courtroom is a sacred place because a defendant or a plaintiff stands there with a determination to accept the judge’s ruling on a matter that is critical and sometimes life changing. When the judge enters the courtroom, everyone rises and keeps this in mind. And that determination does not include putting up with a judge’s cruel words.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 4, Page 29
* The author is a national news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY JEON YOUNG-SUN