Judicial Yuan Appointment Must Transcend Partisan PoliticsChina Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 22, 2010
Summary: Judicial Yuan President Lai Ying-chao was resolute about tendering his resignation. He was determined to assume responsiblity for systematic corruption among High Court judges. President Ma has accepted Lai's resignation. He has asked Judicial Yuan Vice President Hsieh Chai-fu, who tendered his resignation at the same time, to remain until a successor can be found. The Special Investigation Unit is investigating High Court judges. This has shattered the credibility of our justice system. But President Lai's unwavering resignation was a rare demonstration of political responsibility. He earned the public's respect, and set an example for his peers.
Full Text below:
Judicial Yuan President Lai Ying-chao was resolute about tendering his resignation. He was determined to assume responsiblity for systematic corruption among High Court judges. President Ma has accepted Lai's resignation. He has asked Judicial Yuan Vice President Hsieh Chai-fu, who tendered his resignation at the same time, to remain until a successor can be found. The Special Investigation Unit is investigating High Court judges. This has shattered the credibility of our justice system. But President Lai's unwavering resignation was a rare demonstration of political responsibility. He earned the public's respect, and set an example for his peers.
Does anyone remember how former Prosecutor General Chen Tsung-ming refused to step down despite public skepticism about his integrity? With his swift resignation, President Lai demonstrated far more character. That was obvious. His resignation was so unequivocal even the president was taken by surprise. Lai resigned only as Judicial Yuan President, not as a High Court judge. This would have enabled the president to keep Lai on as a High Court judge. Lai did not realize this would significantly limit the president's options regarding personnel appointments. Therefore special importance was put on him simultaneously resigning as High Court judge. Simultaneously resigning his posistion as High Court judge would allow the president to recruit from circles other than current judges. Lai was both thoughtful and honorable. President Lai's willingness to assume responsibility ended any hemorraging within the justice system. It raised public hopes for judicial reform. has opened up new horizons. It allowed the administration to carefully consider the next wave of judicial appointments and its policy direction. The administration should consult a wide range of people before making its final decision.
The Special Investigation Unit's handling of cases has inspired the public to consider the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC. Similar calls have been heard everywhere. But the design of the Special Investigation Unit and its recent moves mean it is essentially the same as an Independent Commission Against Corruption. If one insists on having the name as well as the game, one could simply rename the Special Investigation Unit the "Independent Commission Against Corruption." The first chief of the Special Investigation Unit was improperly selected. Chen Tsung-ming has resigned. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water. We should not assume that establishing a separate Independent Commission Against Corruption is the only way. The key is systemic reform of the justice system. We must eliminate its defects while retaining its virtues. We must establish an effective exit mechanism for judges. We must eliminate diseased tissue while preserving the healthy. We must avoid untoward eventualities. After all, improving the quality and efficiency of the trial process is not the responsiblity of the Special Investigation Unit or an Independent Commission Against Corruption. Judicial integrity is merely a minimum requirement for the justice system. The only way to improve the trial process is to improve both the trial system and judicial appointees.
Former Judicial Yuan President Ong initiated judicial reform, but his campaign was only a partial success. Now President Lai has resigned. Judicial reform can no longer be delayed. Everyone agrees that judicial reform is not a panacea. It cannot effect an overnight transformation. Therefore one must appoint a Judicial Yuan President with a sense of mission. One must allow enough time for knowledgeable professionals to review the Big Picture and eliminate all obstacles. One must not maintain the status quo and continue muddling along as before.
What kind of abilities should the next Judicial Yuan president have? He must have a deep understanding of the law. He must have an impeccable professional reputation. He must have considerable administrative ability. He must be able to transform the justice system into a high quality, professional service provider. With judicial independence as a precondition, he must find a way to increase the quality and efficiency of the justice system. The ability to manage the "economics of law" will be indispensable. Public expectations are running high. Unflinching determination will be essential in leading the trial system out of its crisis of public confidence. Allow us to speak frankly. Taiwan has many talented individuals. But few candidates meet the aforementioned requirements. The president will have to choose carefully.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind the ruling and opposition parties that judicial reform should transcend partisan political struggles. It must not be rooted in selfish calculation. The "Justice Act" has remained stalled in the Legislative Yuan for years, unable to see the light of day. The result has been the decline of judicial discipline. The mechanism for evaluating and eliminating unfit judges remains ineffective, nothing more than the result of political struggle. How can one not be distraught? Judicial Yuan appointments impact judicial reform. They determine whether judicial reform will be able to make a fresh start. The ruling and opposition parties must not view this issue purely from partisan perspectives. They must not turn judicial appointments into partisan political struggles. Too much political calculation is not healthy to the reform of the trial process. The ruling and opposition parties must allow the nation to recruit the talent it needs.
The President of the Judicial Yuan is chosen from among High Court judges. He or she will preside over constitutional interpretations and play a key part in the next wave of judicial reforms. President Lai's departure has left the president with a personnel appointment decision that could make or break the Republic of China's democracy and its rule of law. When the president makes his appointment, he should throw open the doors of his mind. He should ask himself what the real requirements are for judicial reform. He must find good people to assume this heavy responsibility. The future of the rule of law in the Republic of China depends on it.