A dilemma over special treatment
The Korean Bar Association has rejected a former Supreme Court justice’s plan to practice law as an attorney, but some lawyers are skeptical of its motive. The group initiated a campaign to root out the tradition of giving special treatment to retired judges and prosecutors, allowing them to do what they want, and discouraged the former justice from practicing law. But the initiative was received coldly.
The response is not limited to the lawyers. While the Korea Bar Association released a series of official statements, concerned voices are spreading in and out of the legal circle. It is considered an attack on a certain individual, and a matter of ethics is becoming a requirement.
On March 26, the Seoul Bar Association returned former justice Cha Han-sung’s paperwork back to the Korea Bar Association as they found it was valid. Some even argue that Korea Bar Association Chairman Ha Chang-woo had accepted more than 100 cases while serving as the chairman of the Seoul Bar Association. People are growing concerned about mudslinging in the legal field.
Why are people so skeptical of the seemingly right cause? Most of all, people are repelled by the “above-the-law” authority of the Korea Bar Association, an organization of lawyers. When there is no explicit regulation preventing a former judge’s private practice, the Korea Bar Association stretched the rule and applied it to a certain individual. When former Supreme Court Justice Cha’s right to practice law as an attorney after retirement was denied, the basic rights of individuals could be arbitrarily infringed on according to the “personal conviction” of the chairman.
Special treatment for former judges and prosecutors is a chronic illness in the legal field. It is something that must be eradicated, but despite years of efforts, it remains. It is that hard to root out, and a more systematic and thorough alternative is needed. There is a structural problem that high-ranking judges and prosecutors retire in their 50s and early 60s, and a plan to use their experiences should be prepared. Blaming the ethics of a certain individual and discouraging him to practice law cannot solve the problem.
Public opinion towards the latest controversy is far more favorable than insiders of the legal circle. Still, it is not likely to be the “solution” to the special treatment for the former judges and prosecutors. Recently, the Korea Bar Association filed a constitutionality review for the Kim Young-ran anti-corruption act and argued that high public support does not make unconstitutional law constitutional. They are right. This is the very principle that should be applied for this case.
*The author is a national news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 31, Page 29
by PARK MIN-JE