Sun, Aug 25, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Warm-hearted judge causes a storm with his unconventional judgment

OUT OF THE ORDINARY Judge Lin Hui-huang says judges should not try to conceal their emotions and there is nothing wrong in expressing one's feelings

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite meting out punishments to criminals for 14 years, Judge Lin Hui-huang (林輝煌) has not become hardened to society's darker side.

The 43-year-old judge made headlines last week after riling some of his peers by handing down a judgment written in literary language filled with compassion for the defendant.

"Whereas most judges choose to conceal their emotions in their written verdict as if they are afraid to reveal their real thoughts, I simply want to be true to my personal feelings. I write what's in my mind," Lin said.

"So long as the verdict is reached though comprehensive legal debate, I don't consider it improper to write the verdict with emotion, because judges are not God, they are ordinary people made of flesh and blood."

On July 19, the Yunlin District Court judge fined Liu Teng-ho (劉登河) NT$300 for stealing NT$100 worth of metal wire from a paper company in Yunlin County.

In the judgment, Lin wrote: "I looked at the defendant with compassion. I know for him to survive in society, he needs to try harder and struggle much more than we do.

"I am convinced that without this extreme pressure, he would choose to go on with his life with pride. May God have mercy on the humble, so as to allow them to survive on this earth. May the prosecutor have a kind heart to feel for the small and insignificant individual."

In his judgment, Lin detailed the process by which Liu answered questions in court.

"He had a serious stutter and could hardly utter a word. Instead of asking him to speak, I suggested he write down his explanations," Lin wrote of Liu, who was jailed for 21 months in January 1998 for theft.

"[Liu] wrote: `After I came out of jail, I left those bad friends. My stammer has made it very difficult for me to find a job, but I was determined not to be a thief. To make a living, I decided to collect scrap iron and waste paper to sell,'" Lin wrote.

Lin said in the verdict he sympathized with Liu, who he said had to support a wife -- who is also mentally disabled -- and a daughter by selling useless materials.

While critics say Lin's judgment included excessive emotional depictions, which violated what they regarded as a legal principle that every word used in a judgment should pertain to the case, Lin thought differently.

"Most judges write their verdict in conventionally stiff language, which is often incomprehensible to the public," Lin said. "But I prefer to express myself in a more understandable style because I seek to alter the general conception that judges are emotionless or intimidating. They should be as friendly as neighbors."

But those close to Lin believe his humane approach was more associated with his background.

"[Lin] feels for the under-privileged because he comes from that level of society," said Lin Shih-chi (林時機), the judge's uncle and a Control Yuan member who inspired his nephew to pursue a career in the judiciary 20 years ago. "His family background helps him foster a charitable personality."

The judge grew up in a poor family in Yunlin County -- one of the nation's least-developed areas.

His father died when Lin was young, leaving his mother to raise him and two other children on money she earned as a cleaning lady and doing odd jobs.

He initially studied teaching at National Taichung Teachers' College where the tuition was free.

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