Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Lawyers back Council of Grand Justices

COUNTER-MOVE After pan-blue legislators on Tuesday said they planned to cut the paychecks of grand justices, several lawyers came out in support of the judges

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawyers yesterday stood up in support of grand justices after lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) proposed to cut their paychecks in retaliation for ruling that the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute is partially unconstitutional.

The Judicial Reform Foundation (民間司法改革基金會), the Taipei Bar Association, the Taiwan Bar Association, the Taiwan Law Society (台灣法學會) and the Taipei Society (澄社) jointly held a press conference yesterday to express support for the grand justices. It was an unusual move, as the groups are more frequently critics of the judicial system and its personnel, including judges and law clerks.

The lawyers' action came after the KMT-PFP alliance proposed on Tuesday during a legislative meeting that its lawmakers veto a budget proposal for grand justices. In addition, KMT-PFP lawmakers also said they would consider removing a "professional bonus" paid to grand justices.

The lawmakers said that they were planning to do so as a political punishment because the justices ruled that the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute is partially unconstitutional.

According to the Judicial Yuan, the monthly salary for a grand justice is NT$179,520, plus a "professional bonus" of NT$89,325.

"KMT Lawmaker Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said on Tuesday that the grand justices had not delivered quality work, so they should be punished," Hung Yu-hung (洪裕宏), chairman of the Taipei Society, said. "However, it is unfair to criticize the grand justices like this, just because they did not come up with an interpretation article to the Constitution in somebody's personal favor. We have seen some inside reasons here. They [KMT-PFP lawmakers] have admitted to these inside reasons as well."

According to Taiwan Law Society Secretary-General and Ming Chuan University Associate Law Professor Chen In-chin (陳英鈐), the lawmakers also said that the grand justices are not carrying out their jobs as "judges" so they should not enjoy the "professional bonus."

"This is ridiculous," Chen said. "They are ruling on cases [as judges], although we call their verdicts interpretation articles to the Constitution. In addition, a grand justice cannot be nominated as a grand justice if she or he is not a qualified judge."

Chen said the most important thing for judges is to maintain their independence and that the bonus helped to do this by recognizing their efforts.

"Paying grand justices a professional bonus somehow assures the independence of their positions," the law professor said.

In addition to reducing grand justices' paychecks, KMT-PFP lawmakers are also planning to reduce the budget for the Taiwan High Court's Black Gold Investigation Center (查緝黑金中心行動中心).

In response, the Prosecution Reform Union (民間檢察制度改革聯盟) released a statement saying that the union is "ashamed of what certain lawmakers are planning to do."

"According to our inside sources, the lawmakers want to do this because the center has more than once investigated certain lawmakers for potential involvement in bribery-related cases," the statement read.

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