Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Painting Judges Blue will only Destroy the Justice System

Painting Judges Blue will only Destroy the Justice System
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
September 4, 2007

How difficult is it to destroy the Republic of China's (ROC) system of justice? Apparently not that difficult. All you have to do is accuse judges of being Pan Blue in their political affiliation. Just look at how judges have been vilified over the past two days. First the president went on TV and alleged that seventy to eighty percent of all judges were Pan Blues. He accused them of being concerned only with Blue and Green, not black and white. The president no sooner finished his diatribe, than the Executive Yuan conveniently chimed in. The Government Information Office (GIO) called a press conference demanding that the Kuomintang (KMT) make public how many Judicial Yuan officials have been party members since martial law was lifted. The GIO demanded that any judge who had participated in a court case involving political figures disclose his party affiliation, if any, on the Internet. Rather than quietly await a possible guilty verdict, why not launch a preemptive attack by accusing the entire judicial system of Pan Blue political bias?

How much have members of ROC judicial system, from high level administrators to district court judges, quietly sacrificed over the years to establish an independent and professional judiciary? How much wisdom and intellect has been invested in judicial reform? Now that it is time to reap the rewards, all it takes nullify the entire legal community's years of sacrifice, is a single speech from President Chen and a single press conference from the GIO. With such a president and such a ruling party taking the lead in destroying the destroying public trust in the nation's judiciary, what point is there in judicial reform?

After this, how will judges be able to try political cases? We already have our answer. Any verdict favorable to the Green Camp will be trumpeted as "Solomonic," as the "Triumph of Justice." Any verdict favorable to the Blue Camp will be castigated as "concerned only about Blue and Green, indifferent about black and white," or even denounced as the "Demise of the Judiciary." The judge will be asked to reveal his party affiliation. He may even be publicly slandered and vilified. A nation's judges are only permitted to find opposition party leaders guilty. They are not permitted to rule against ruling party officials. Is this the "Triumph of Justice?" What word is there for this kind of intimidation of judges, other than "Political Terror?" Can judges be liberated from political influence? If judges live in fear, can they really champion justice for the common man?

Remember the KMT/PFP lawsuit to nullify Chen Shui-bian's "election" in 2004? The court ruled against the KMT/PFP. Following the court's decision the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ringingly declared that the judiciary had returned a just verdict, granting Chen the justice he deserved. Using President Chen and the DPP's logic, couldn't the KMT dismiss the judges' ruling back then as "concerned only with Blue and Green, indifferent to black and white?" Couldn't it have demanded that the presiding judge make a public admission of his political affiliation?

If President Chen were really concerned about "judicial intervention in politics," that would be one thing. Alas his tirade against the judiciary contained an escape clause. Last month he publicly accused the judiciary of attempting to influence the presidential campaign. He touched off a storm of controversy in legal circles. His allegations were considered attempts to influence the verdict in the Ma Ying-jeou case. This time he publicly accused seventy to eighty percent of the members of the judiciary of harboring Pan Blue partisan political bias. Suddenly changing the subject, he said that he once promised to resign if found guilty in the State Affairs Confidential Expense case. He said that as long as the judiciary is independent and not subject to Blue, Green, or Red Shirt Army political influence, then of course his promise to resign is binding upon him. But then he added "If this is not the case however, then I would have to reconsider." Isn't his meaning clear enough? If when the time comes the judge in Chen's State Affairs Confidential Expense case finds him guilty, Chen intends to accuse the judge of Pan Blue political bias, citing it as an excuse to renege on his promise to resign. We can now safely predict the kind of vilification the judge in Chen's State Affairs Confidential Expense case will be subjected to in the event he rules against Chen and disappoints Green Camp expectations.

Government Information Office Bureau Chief Hsieh Chi-wei joined the lynch mob. He publicly demanded that judges presiding over trials of political figures reveal their political affiliation on the Internet. What he failed to do was to cite any legal basis for such demands. Still less did he consult Article 80 of the Constitution: "Judges must transcend partisanship, rule independently based on the law, and resist any and all interference." Instead he righteously intoned: This is "transitional justice." We feel compelled to respond: "Transitional justice? Transitional justice? How many injustices do you intend to commit in the name of transitional justice?" The ruling party, not content to destroy the judicial system, now wants tarnish the concept of "transitional justice." Nobody denies that during the martial law era the judicial system was under the thumb of the party/state system. But if the "lifting of martial law" qualified as a form of transition, wasn't its biggest contribution, wasn't the most important "justice" it established, the elimination of "Big Brother" from inside your head? Even judges' heads? Now the ruling DPP wants to use these obscene methods to intimidate judges. What is this, but brand new "Big Brothers," this time in Green uniforms?"

As he ponders the realpolitik of his political power, we hope Chen Shui-bian and the Green Camp will cease its abuse of the judiciary. Perhaps this is an unrealistic hope. The legal community must prepare for vicious attacks. Given the political climate, the only way judges can withstand vilification is to rededicate themselves to comporting themselves more professionally and rendering more independent judgments.

中國時報  2007.09.04
政治抹藍法官 只會摧毀司法








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