The Presidential Office yesterday named an alternative nominee to the Council of Grand Justices after Supreme Court Judge Shao Yen-ling (邵燕玲) declined President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) nomination following her controversial ruling in a sexual assault case involving an under-aged girl, saying that the nomination process for the four council members was “not thorough.”
Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said the task force charged with screening the nominees had been working on the project for more than a month.
“Despite all their efforts, maybe some issues were not carefully thought out,” he said. “We will pay more attention next time the president makes a nomination.”
Lo was evasive about who made the mistake, either the task force, Ma or his advisors. Nor did he say whether Ma was aware of Shao’s controversial ruling.
Shao yesterday morning issued a statement declining Ma’s nomination. Her rejection of the position came after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) carried a front-page story yesterday reporting that her decision in a sexual assault case concerning an under-aged girl caused public outrage.
Shao caused a stir last year when she overrulled a High Court verdict in a sexual assault case on the grounds that the court could not prove a three-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted against her will because she had not resisted strongly enough.
Shao said yesterday that she realized how her ruling had upset some people, although a Control Yuan investigation later concluded there was nothing wrong with her verdict. To avoid causing trouble, however, she said she would decline Ma’s nomination.
Lo said Ma received Shao’s statement in writing yesterday morning and called a meeting at about 8am.
Ma then decided to respect Shao’s decision and nominated a replacement, Tang Te-tsung (湯德宗).
Legislators across party lines spoke in near unanimity against the nomination.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers called the original choice a “slap in the face” for the hundreds of thousands of people that took to the streets last year.
They were referring to protesters, led by judicial reform advocates, who took to the streets following Shao’s ruling, saying Shao came from a breed of “dinosaur judges” that needed to be replaced.
“President Ma should apologize to the public,” DPP caucus whip Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said. “The [Presidential Office] owes everyone an apology for picking Shao in the first place.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) called Shao’s decision to decline the nomination a wise move, but said the task force charged with creating a shortlist of nominees for the position should be held responsible.
“There must be a flaw in the process of shortlisting grand justice nominees. Some people might have given incorrect information to President Ma,” Hsieh said.
Meanwhile, the head of the White Rose Social Care Association, who only gave her name as Eva, asked FTV News: “How can the president be so disconnected with public opinion?”
“I hope Ma can look again at the decision to nominate a judge ... that is so out of touch with public sentiment,” she said.
Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who led the task force, said that it spent 18 days collecting a list of 32 potential candidates and then Ma spent several days picking four nominees. Late last night Siew apologized to both the president and the public over the matter, while Ma also apologized to the public.