Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Proposed limits for judiciary chiefs misguided

By Ku Chung-hwa and Shirley Lin 顧忠華、林靜萍

In recent days, a KMT legislator has proposed eligibility criteria for the posts of president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan in a bill to amend the Organic Law of the Judicial Yuan (司法院組織法). Among the proposals which have prompted debate are an age ceiling of 65 and a requirement to have served as a grand justice for at least three years. In order to prevent nominations for president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan, as well as those for grand justices, from becoming prizes over which politicians would wrangle, we would like to express our solemn opposition to these proposals.

Actually, the lawmaker's proposals are not just inappropriate; they offer no real benefits whatsoever.

Consider the age ceiling, for example. First, in the entire law of the land age ceilings are neither imposed on the nation's president, the vice president, nor heads of the four other branches of government. Why should the president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan be singled out?

Furthermore, if we look at the relevant laws of other nations, although there is a minimum age requirement of 40 for supreme court justices in Germany and Japan, there appear to be no examples of laws setting age ceilings. Moreover, the cultivation of legal experts requires time. Since most judges enjoy special privileges and are not required to retire at age 65, it's hard to understand why the highly respected grand justices should receive worse treatment than ordinary judges.

Many truly great legal scholars continue to conduct research after the age of 65. Wouldn't an age ceiling be a denial of potential breakthroughs in legal studies?

Further, consider the proposed requirement that candidates for the presidency and vice presidency of the Judicial Yuan must have served for at least three years as grand justices. First of all, Additional Article 5 of the Constitution states, "The Judicial Yuan shall have 15 grand justices ... two of whom will be president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan ..." Thus the Constitution only appears to require that the president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan be grand justices. It does not prescribe any other qualifications, nor delegate any authority to do so. Can it therefore be constitutional to pass legislation that will add requirements that aren't mentioned in the Constitution? We doubt it.

Moreover, apart from their responsibilities as grand justices, the primary duties of the president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan are to handle a raft of administrative matters, and administrative ability has little to do with serving for three years as a grand justice. Prescribing inappropriate qualifications in this way to rule out the promotion of the most outstanding and most suitable talent amounts to unreasonably restricting the president's ability to nominate candidates for the jobs.

Everyone knows that at present the most important challenge facing legal circles is to accelerate the pace of judicial reform in accord with the ardent wishes of the public in this critical period. We believe that the next president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan should have the following qualifications in addition to those explicitly listed in the Constitution: first, the courage to protect human rights, a mature understanding of democracy, constitutional ideals and legal expertise; second, a strong calling to defend judicial independence and the ability to improve the judicial environment and the quality of verdicts; third, commitment to judicial reform without fear of ridicule or slander or considerations of personal gain and loss; fourth, the ability to manage people and outstanding leadership skills. No restrictions on age or experience are necessary.

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