Ten of the nation’s 15 grand justices are eligible for government pensions and should recuse themselves from any constitutional hearing on pension reform, two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators said yesterday.
Opponents of the pension reform bill for civil servants and public-school teachers passed last month have announced plans to begin a legal battle to overturn the legislation as soon as it takes effect in July next year.
While the Judicial Yuan Organization Act (司法院組織法) allows the appointment of lawyers and applicants who have “research law and have rich political experience” as grand justices, most appointees have come from the ranks of senior judges, prosecutors and legal academics who have accumulated many years of service, which often make them eligible for government pension benefits.
Of the 15 justices, Huang Hsi-chun (黃璽君), Tsai Chung-tun (蔡炯燉), Wu Chen-huan (吳陳鐶), Tsai Ming-cheng (蔡明誠) and Chen Be-yue (陳碧玉) have already accumulated “seniority” of more than 25 years, making them eligible for pensions benefits.
Council of Grand Justices members Chan San-lin (詹森林), Lin Jyun-yi (林俊益), Chang Chiung-wen (張瓊文), Lo Chang-fa (羅昌發) and Hwang Jau-yuan (黃昭元) have accumulated seniority of more than 15 years, making them eligible for pension benefits after they turn 60 if they return to government or teaching after completing their terms.
Of the council’s members, only career lawyers Huang Horng-shya (黃虹霞) and Huang Jui-ming (黃瑞明) have no years of seniority.
Under the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act (司法院大法官審理案件法), grand justices should use the Code of Administrative Procedure (行政訴訟法) — and by extension the Code of Civil Procedure (民事訴訟法) — rules to recuse themselves from any legal disputes where their participation could raise concerns about partiality, as well as any in which they have previously directly participated, DPP Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) said.
Even if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fails to garner the cross-party coalition necessary to reach the 38-legislator threshold to directly apply for a constitutional interpretation, pension reform opponents would still apply after losing an administrative appeal to overturn the reforms, he said, calling on all justices with eligibility to receive pensions to recuse themselves as interested parties.
DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said that at least half of the Council of Grand Justices’ members must participate in reviews of cases for the result to be valid under the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act, raising questions about whether the council should even accept the case given the number of justices with pension eligibility.
Because choosing to accept the case without the recusal of all interested justices could raise questions about the final rulings’ impartiality, justices should carefully consider the ethical and legal issues involved in taking on the case because of the potential for the council’s reputation to be deeply damaged, he said.
The legislature on Wednesday last week passed the Act Governing Civil Servants’ Retirement, Discharge and Pensions (公務人員退休資遣撫卹法), which slashed civil servants’ retirement benefits.
The act stipulates that the preferential, government-subsidized 18 percent interest rate on savings for those who receive NT$32,160 per month or more in retirement income is to be reduced to 9 percent from July 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2020, and cut to zero from Jan. 1, 2021.
In the case of retirees who opted for lump sum retirement payments rather than monthly pensions, the preferential interest rate is to decrease to 6 percent over a six-year period.
The bill would also gradually lower the income replacement rate for pensioners who are receiving NT$32,160 per month or more.
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber and CNA
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