Tue, Jul 05, 2016 - Page 8 News List

What is the best way to reform the judiciary?

By Chuang Sheng-rong 莊勝榮

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has decided that a national conference on judicial reform should be convened in October. Presidential Office Secretary-General Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤) is to head the preparatory committee, which is also to have three deputy conveners and 15 members. Leaving aside the issue of whether this is the best composition for a committee, there are also questions about whether this is a good arrangement and whether October is the right time for such a conference.

Tsai is intent on bringing about judicial reform and on putting together a preparatory committee of ambitious people. This is a move in the right direction and it should be welcomed by the public.

However, the judiciary should be independent and the Judicial Yuan is not administered by the Presidential Office, although the Judicial Yuan president and vice president are nominated by the president and approved by the legislature.

The question is how the judiciary should be reformed, and how the reforms should be implemented. As such reform touches on judges’ jurisdictional rights, there are a few issues that not even the nation’s president can approach, let alone the Presidential Office secretary-general. This is why it is wrong to appoint Lin as convener of the preparatory committee.

The right way to go about judicial reform is to let the president initiate it and then pass the task on to the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice.

A national conference on judicial reform was convened from July 6 to July 8, 1999, during the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). The preparatory committee was made up of the secretary-general of the Judicial Yuan, the justice minister and vice justice minister, members of the Judges Association and the Taiwan Bar Association, as well as judges, prosecutors and academics — 11 people in all.

They addressed 12 issues, establishing the agenda rules for the judicial reform conference, the daily schedule for the conference and the status of the Judicial Yuan.

The preparatory committee met nine times, and in addition, it held an explanatory meeting. The judicial reform conference was attended by 125 people and was followed by the publication of a report on the conference. The report could be used as a reference when preparing the upcoming conference, as it could reduce uncertainty and improve the preparatory committee’s efficiency.

The president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan are stepping down in October, and it would be awkward to have the outgoing president and vice president participate in the preparatory work for the conference. After all, it is precisely because they failed to facilitate reform that the national reform conference is needed in the first place, so it would be an embarrassment for them to participate.

Furthermore, they are counting down their last days in office, so who would have the heart to tell them to participate in preparatory work? October is probably not the best time for the conference.

The proper way to go about this would be to wait until the next president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan have been nominated and approved. Rushing to hold the conference in October, before the new heads of Judicial Yuan have been appointed, would exclude them from the conference, and that could make it difficult to accomplish continuity and implement the conclusions reached at the conference, and the result could be that judicial reform fails.

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