Bar association rejects former justice’s plans

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Bar association rejects former justice’s plans

The Korean Bar Association has rejected a former Supreme Court justice’s announcement that he will begin practicing law as an attorney, part of its campaign to root out the long-held tradition of providing special treatment to former judges and prosecutors post-retirement.

“In order to break down old customs and win public trust in the legal community, we inevitably turned down Cha Han-sung’s disclosure that he will practice law as an attorney,” the association said Monday.

Cha served as a Supreme Court justice from 2008 to 2014, and worked as a judge since 1975, when he passed the bar exam.

He completed his attorney registration in February, after which he was hired to serve at a nonprofit foundation operated by Bae, Kim & Lee LLC, one of the country’s largest law firms.

Last week, Cha submitted paperwork to the Korean Bar Association to formally announce that he would work as a practicing attorney.

Afterward, the association recommended he reconsider his decision, citing its campaign to quell practices in Korea’s legal system whereby retired judges and prosecutors receive special favor from former colleagues who are still serving.

Providing honorable treatment to retired colleagues has long been seen as an evil in the country’s judicial system.

“A retired Supreme Court justice should serve the people and devote himself to society rather than strive for personal gain by practicing law as an attorney,” the association stated.

“Lawyers who served on the Supreme Court’s bench have often embarrassed themselves by monopolizing appeals to the Supreme Court in return for high retainer fees, or practically renting out titles to their juniors.”

While Cha has maintained that he will only work as an attorney for the nonprofit group, and not for personal gain, the bar has insisted that he relent on his plan, though it has no legal grounds to regulate his actions.

Current law governing lawyers allows the bar association to reject an attorney’s registration, but there is no clause that enables it to reject an announcement by a registered attorney to start his own practice.

After turning down his paperwork, the association said it would take stronger action.

“We will ask the National Assembly speaker to collect written pledges from all Supreme Court justice candidates that they not work as practicing attorneys after leaving the bench,” it said.

It added that it will also open up a tip center to collect information about special treatment afforded to former judges and prosecutors.

The center as well as the association’s campaign to eradicate special treatment are both the results of pledges made by Ha Chang-woo, the newly elected chairman of the Korean Bar Association.

Ha, who served as chairman of the Seoul Bar Association from 2007 to 2009, promised to end corrupt practices in the legal community during his campaign to become the head of the association, which represents more than 15,500 lawyers.

He was elected to the post last month.

However, some in the legal community still expressed concern over the association’s move.

“The National Assembly could create a law to regulate former judges practicing law after their retirement,” an incumbent judge said, “but when a lawyers’ lobbying group starts regulating that practice, it will eventually have an influence on those judges.”

BY SER MYO-JA, BAEK MIN-JEONG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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