Wed, May 17, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Foundation says database on lawyers must be public

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The legal profession needs to set up a mechanism to remove incompetent or unscrupulous lawyers from practice, the Judicial Reform Foundation said yesterday, adding that strict regulations are needed to stop judges convicted of crimes from working as lawyers.

The issue of regulations was not adequately addressed by preparatory committees of the National Congress on Judicial Reform, foundation officials said, adding that it had received numerous complaints from people involved in litigation.

“Many people have complained that lawyers lack professionalism, or demonstrated unethical conduct, while others have come to distrust lawyers after going through the litigation process,” foundation president Joseph Lin (林永頌) said.

“The complaints were just as plentiful as those directed against prosecutors or judges,” Lin said.

“However, judicial reform committee sessions have not addressed issues of unethical conduct or incompetence by lawyers, and we believe the foundation and the public can lead the way with recommendations,” he said.

Databases that contain the records and backgrounds of lawyers are kept under wraps, so it is difficult for people to choose a lawyer, he said.

“We urge that the databases be made public to give transparency to the legal profession,” Lin said. “It is time to regulate lawyers, and it should be up to the Judicial Yuan to establish a system by which people can access information about lawyers,” Lin said.

He recommended that bar associations establish channels for people to file complaints about misconduct or incompetence.

Associations should undertake disciplinary measures and should have the power to disbar lawyers in cases of serious breaches, Lin said.

Huang Ying-chia (黃盈嘉), a lawyer for the foundation, cited the case of a judge who was found guilty of corruption after receiving bribes for lenient sentences in a case he presided over.

After serving a brief prison term of only a few years, the judge joined a local bar association and went on to work as a lawyer, Huang said.

“The legal profession should not become a recycling bin, accepting unethical judges or public prosecutors who have been convicted of corruption,” she said. “In this case, the judge was removed from the justice system, but he found a way to become a practicing lawyer.”

Huang called on associations to strictly enforce regulation and refuse convicted judiciary officials a place.

“Associations should protect the public from these bad apples to safeguard the rights of the public,” she said.

Associations tend not to take drastic action against their own, as the legal profession is a small circle and most members are friends with each other, or have professional or business ties, Huang said.

“Some local bar associations created loopholes by amending their regulations to only disbar a lawyer in cases where the offense and conviction took place while the person was a practicing lawyer,” she said.

“These kinds of loopholes have enabled judges and prosecutors who were convicted of corruption to return to roles in the legal profession,” she said.

Foundation executives said that bar associations should set up minimum standards for lawyers; enforce regulations governing services offered, professionalism and conduct; and institute a transparent process of evaluation and discipline for criminal offenses.

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