The Presidential Office yesterday said it was not consulted before the preparatory committee for the National Congress on Judicial Reform decided to drastically reduce the number of Supreme Court judges and give the president the power to appoint judges without legislative approval.
“President Tsai [Ing-wen (蔡英文)] has always supported judicial independence. Her resolve and stated position on this matter need not be questioned,” Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said.
Tsai serves as the convener of the committee and there are five sub-committees.
Photo: Chung Lee-hua, Taipei Times
“Members of the preparatory sub-committees have been meeting to deliberate on the thematic issues assigned to each of them,” Lin said, adding that the issues were compiled during an open call for input by various sectors of society and then consolidated by committee members.
“As such, we respect each committee member’s judgement and have given them room for discussion to allow them to fully express their views and ideas,” he said.
As for the process of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, members of the judicial reform committee did not make consultation, nor did they seek the Presidential Office’s opinion, Lin said.
“The president believes that issues related to presidential powers and mandated duties should be treated carefully, in a prudent way,” Lin said, adding that the issue would be further evaluated in the final committee session.
During a meeting of the committee on Monday a consensus was reached that the top level of the judiciary should be reduced by cutting the combined number of Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court judges from 94 to 21, and granting the president the power to make final selection of the judges without going through legislative approval.
At present, the Judicial Yuan nominates and appoints top-level judges.
Under the proposal, the Judicial Yuan president would nominate 63 candidates — three times the required number of judges — and a screening committee would then narrow the list to 42 and the president would select candidates from the shortlist.
Critics and opposition party lawmakers have accused Tsai of seeking to expand her powers and interfere with judiciary’s independence.
However, the Judicial Yuan on Tuesday said that the proposal aims to bring the nation more in-sync with the judicial systems in other countries.
Reached for a comment yesterday, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) urged his successor to be cautious in handling the issue, saying that Taiwan should not randomly copy foreign systems.
Additional reporting by CNA
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