The first batch of disciplinary recommendations by the Judges’ Evaluation Committee (JEC), established in accordance with the Judges Act (法官法), have finally been released. Of the two judges named, one was investigated at the request of the Judicial Reform Foundation, while the other was investigated by the Judicial Yuan.
The Judges Act stipulates that the JEC must consist of lawyers, academics and members of the public who are involved in social justice, in addition to judges and prosecutors, in the hopes of addressing the long-standing problem of having insiders evaluating their peers.
The committee recommended that Judge Chan Chun-hung (詹駿鴻) of the Taiwan High Court be given two demerits for advising a defendant to withdraw an appeal — arguably quite a heavy punishment.
It also recommended that Judge Lee Chao-jung (李昭融) of the Banciao District Court be suspended from duties for six months for discussing a case over the telephone with her husband, also a judge a the same court, during the actual court hearing, whereas the Banciao District Court disciplinary committee had recommended that she simply receive an admonishment. Evidently, in this case, the verdict passed down by Li’s peers was far more lenient than that of the committee, which draws its members from outside the profession.
Nevertheless, both punishments are only recommendations and do not constitute the final ruling. The Judicial Yuan still has the right to decide just how the “crimes” in these instances are to be evaluated.
Article 47 of the Judges Act stipulates that only the Judiciary Court, installed by the Judicial Yuan, can be responsible for disciplinary actions against judges. No representatives from outside the judiciary can sit on this court, which is made up entirely of judges.
It has thus not even been determined whether the Judiciary Court’s verdict will comply with the JEC’s recommendations. It has been observed that it will be difficult to regain public trust in the judiciary if the committee has only set down two cases in eight months — especially if these evaluations are little more than endorsements. However, on closer inspection, even these two cases have not been established yet.
It is also worth pointing out that these cases came to light because the recordings of the hearings are public. With the evidence available to all, the judges had nowhere to hide. It also means that the committee was able to inspect the misconduct as if they had actually been there at the time and so was able to come to a quick decision about the disciplinary recommendations. Prosecutors, to whom the Judges Act also applies, are more fortunate.
The Chinese Association for Human Rights receives many requests to investigate prosecutors in which the complainant has applied to the district prosecutors’ office — on many occasions repeatedly — for copies of information into the investigation. Each time they were refused by the office director, given that there is no legal requirement that they provide such information.
As a result, no matter how many grievances the complainant has about their treatment during the course of the investigation, they have no access to the information they might be able to use as evidence of the prosecutors’ abuse of power. Given this, what use are these new provisions which the government has spent so much money setting up?