It has become apparent to a growing number of the public that Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) might be unfit for her position given her track record of inappropriate remarks many deem a violation of judicial independence.
Luo replaced Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) in September last year after he was forced to resign, allegedly taking the role of the prosecution in allegations over improper lobbying involving Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平). When appointed, Luo was praised by the Executive Yuan for her “uprightness, proactiveness and dedication to promoting human rights,” adding that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) was also confident Luo would be able to defend judicial independence.
Perhaps the premier and the Executive Yuan hold a very different definition from the public’s on what constitutes defending judicial independence and civil rights, because what has been pouring out from Luo’s mouth has been anything but.
Many recall that shortly after assuming her post, there was a controversial case in which then-prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) then head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID), was accused of abusing authority and wiretapping members of the Legislative Yuan. Luo spoke in apparent defense of Huang several times. For example, before the ministry’s special investigation panel even began its probe, Luo was quick to say that the SID’s wiretaps on the legislature were “unintentional” and that “Huang had no subjective intent [to place the legislature’s switchboard under surveillance.]” As it turned out, the panel’s report reached a similar conclusion — a finding that even Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers deemed “suspicious.”
Under an independent judiciary only the court has the authority to decide whether Huang committed misconduct and leaked classified information of an ongoing investigation to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Luo’s various comments in favor of her subordinate Huang were quite inappropriate.
With the Sunflower movement, Luo is at it again — openly commenting on the students’ behavior, an action indicative of an attempt to guide prosecutors’ hands in their investigation of the students’ occupation of the Legislative Yuan. On Tuesday, Luo dismissed the student protesters’ claim that they were participating in civil disobedience when they broke into the legislature, saying that a prerequisite for carrying out civil disobedience is that it cannot be an act of open defiance against the law. Luo added that instigators of civil disobedience around the world have admitted to breaking the law of their countries and submitted to legal punishment.
If Luo only knew how to keep her mouth shut.
Article 63 of the Organic Act of Courts (法院組織法) clearly stipulates that it is the prosecutor-general who has authority over the prosecutors’ offices and the power to delegate to and monitor them. The minister of justice, on the other hand, only has the power of administrative oversight over the prosecutorial system and has no jurisdiction over specific cases.
Whether the protesters’ action constituted civil disobedience is not an issue that should concern Luo. Judges, after all, are making the decision, not to mention that her definition of civil disobedience is contradictory to what is being taught to the nation’s high-school freshmen in their civics education textbooks.
Luo is a graduate of National Taiwan University’s College of Law and has a master’s in criminal justice from the University of Albany, State University of New York. She has not served as a judge or a prosecutor. She is advised to revisit her law or high-school civics education textbooks, or watch the award-winning film Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom. Doing so she might reacquaint herself with Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience as well as strengthen her capacity in jurisprudence, an area in which she apparently has a lot of room for improvement.
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