An insult to the court

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An insult to the court


“If this is the way you will run the trial, why are you serving as a constitutional court justice?” one of President Park Geun-hye’s lawyers, Kim Pyung-woo, yelled in the courtroom of the Constitutional Court on Monday.

After Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi declared that the hearing will end for the day, Kim suddenly stood up and started speaking. “I have diabetes,” he said. Chief Justice Lee asked Kim what he would like to say, and Kim answered, “I need time to eat some food.” Lee, then, said, “The court is running the trial, not defense lawyers,” declaring the hearing has ended. Then Kim shouted at her. “Why are you running the trial thoughtlessly?”

Kim, a graduate of Kyunggi High School and Seoul National University Law School, is an elite member of the legal community. A former judge, he spent years at the Harvard University’s Law School as a researcher. He was once the president of the Korean Bar Association.

His resume shows he is one of the most respected attorneys of the country.

A lawyer of such caliber made a disorderly act at the Constitutional Court during an impeachment trial of the president. “If it were in the United States, he would have been detained for contempt of court,” a lawyer representing the National Assembly’s impeachment committee said. “As Kim had spent time in the U.S., he should have been aware of all this.” An incumbent senior judge joined the attack. “That was an act which deserves a punishment for creating a disorder in the courtroom,” he said.

Kim’s remark, however, was not the first nonsense presented by Park’s lawyers at the highest court. Lawyer Seo Seok-gu tried to wave a national flag before the hearing started on Tuesday and was stopped by a court guard.

Such remarks and actions are unimaginable in the countries where the authority of a court is respected. In 2008 in England, an argument was made that the lawyers and judges should stop the 400-year tradition of wearing wigs in court. The practice was called out of date.

But the British courts decided to keep the tradition, because it has a positive effect in maintaining the seriousness of a trial.

In a British court, a lawyer, whenever he makes an argument to a judge, uses the term, “My Lord.” The attorney from the opposing side is referred as “My learned friend.” The lawyers use extremely polite language to argue against their opponents. It is the tools to respect the authority of the law and the dignity of the court.

In Korea, we hardly hear the phrase “Your Honor” to address a judge. The term has gradually disappeared since the 1990s. Many worry about our country’s national dignity. The elder lawyers must remember that the dignity inside a courtroom matches the dignity of a country.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 22, Page 29

*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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