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Wed, Jan 12, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Justice minister gets `top' spot in rankings

THE JUDICIARY Yeh Chin-fong was voted the most significant judicial figure of last year for her stand against change to the criminal justice system during the National Judicial Reform Conference last July

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Justice Yeh Chin-fong (葉金鳳) has been chosen as "judicial person of the year" for 1999, over what critics said was her opposition, rather than contribution, to judicial reform.

"She deserves the honor because she was single-handedly able to hold back the combined effort of other members of the legal community," said Sue Wang (王時思), executive-general of the Judicial Reform Foundation yesterday, as the foundation released its list of top 10 persons of the year involved in judiciary.

Much of the criticism of the minister came out of the National Judicial Reform Conference, held in July, which saw a split between ministry representatives and other participants of the conference, notably between members of the court system and lawyers.

While a majority of participants agreed about the need to change existing criminal justice procedures to create a so-called "adversarial" system such as that used in the US, the minister came out strongly against the change.

As one of five decision-makers at the conference, Yeh's opposition created a deadlock on many issues concerning changes to the criminal justice system.

The reform activists, who had very high expectations for change, said that Yeh's rigid stance had turned the conference into a fruitless exercise. Yeh was later dubbed the "no, no" minister by disappointed delegates.

The top ten survey, conducted by the Judicial Reform Foundation, contained opinions from two groups -- members of the general public, who made their choices based on media coverage of judicial events, and legal specialists such as lawyers and legal reporters.

The justice minister herself topped the list of judicial persons last year -- albeit not in the way she probably would have wanted.

Next to the minister on the list were the judges and the prosecutors reportedly involved in a recent insider-trading scandal.

A legislator disclosed in November last year that the judges and prosecutors in question had collectively invested in stocks of Taiwan Pineapple Corp (台鳳) after receiving a tip-off on prices from the wife of the company's chairman, Chen Mei-hsiu (陳美秀), during a banquet in July 1998. It was also alleged that the judicial officials asked for compensation after the company's stock prices dropped dramatically two months after the July banquet.

The judicial officials involved are now being investigated by the Control Yuan, the island's watchdog organ on public officials.

Independent legislator Wu Tse-yuan (伍澤元), who is appealing his convictions on charges of corruption, was chosen as the third judicial person of the year.

Wu, who was released on medical grounds in March 1998, was elected to the legislature in December of the same year. The legislature appointed Wu as one of representatives to the National Judicial Reform Conference last year. The appointment, however, was eventually rejected by organizers of the conference who believed that including someone as controversial as Wu might have turned the conference into a farce.

The survey also recorded the top 10 legal news events of 1999.

The July conference was given first place for its significance to the island's judicial reform. Other events include the Taiwan Pineapple scandal, driving under the influence becoming an indictable crime, disclosure of the court records of 204 elected representatives and implementation of a restraining order in cases of domestic violence.

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