The legislature yesterday enacted the Judges’ Act (法官法) to create a system to evaluate judges and a mechanism to remove incompetent judges from their posts.
The passage of the act came amid rising concerns over a series of rulings by judges that fell short of public expectations.
Although the legislation allows for the dismissal of judges who enjoy lifelong tenure, Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, gave the act a score of only 50 out of 100.
His concern was that an internal tribunal at the Judicial Yuan, which has final say on any disciplinary action to be meted out, would be composed entirely of senior judges. He said that could render the removal of poorly performing judges impossible.
“The Judicial Yuan hasn’t been willing to give an inch on this,” Lin said.
Under the act, a number of people unaffiliated with the judicial system will be able to sit on the Judicial Personnel Review Committee, which is in charge of important personnel matters within the Judicial Yuan, and the Evaluation Commission, the exit mechanism for judges, but not on the tribunal that has the final say.
The act stipulates that three of the 27 Personnel Review Committee members shall be academics or experts unaffiliated with the judiciary who are selected by the president of the Judicial Yuan from a shortlist put forward by the Ministry of Justice and the Taiwan Bar Association.
Among the 11-seat Evaluation Commission, three judges, one prosecutor and three attorneys will be chosen by a popular vote in their respective groups, while the other four members must be academics or respected members of society picked by the president of the Judicial Yuan from a shortlist of candidates put forward by the ministry and the Taiwan Bar Association.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Judicial Yuan finally agreed to the inclusion of external members in the Personnel Review Committee and the Evaluation Commission following tense negotiations on the act, which has been delayed for more than 20 years.
Lin described the inclusion of external members in the system as a “half-hearted” reform, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the act in getting rid of “dinosaur” judges.
“They are very few in number and subject to a final selection by the president of the Judicial Yuan,” Lin said. “Furthermore, the tribunal that makes the final decision on disciplinary measures against judges is still restricted to the judiciary.”
KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said his caucus regretted that it had to concede ground on the makeup of the Personnel Review Committee to get the act passed.
“There was the possibility raised that judicial personnel matters would be subject to external interference and influenced in a subjective way,” Hsieh said.
Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said his party was not satisfied with the act, but found it “acceptable.”
The act allows a party in a case to file a complaint against a judge, which the Judicial Yuan and the KMT originally strongly opposed.
The legislature yesterday also passed an amendment to the Military Service Act (兵役法) that allows draftees who obtain permission to study in the 41 colleges and universities in China whose certificates are recognized by the government before they are called up for military service.