Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Authorities call for bar membership reform

TRUST IN THE COURTS:A committee said people would lose their belief in the fairness of judicial officials if a formerly convicted prosecutor were allowed to become attorney

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Judges and prosecutors who have been charged with corruption or who lack the moral disposition to practice law should not be allowed to become attorneys, the Control Yuan’s Committee on Judicial and Prison Administration Affairs said in a report published late last month.

The Tainan Bar Association on Oct. 12 appealed to the Supreme Court after the Tainan District Court and the Tainan branch of the Taiwan High Court ruled against the association in a lawsuit over whether former Nantou District Prosecutor Wang Chao-chen (王朝震), who has been convicted of corruption, should be given membership and be allowed to practice law.

According to Article 4 of the Attorney Regulation Act (律師法), “any person having been convicted of a crime and been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of greater than one year, said conviction involving a crime of moral turpitude affecting their moral fitness to practice law and for that reason having been disbarred by the Attorney Disciplinary Committee” is disqualified from practicing law, with the exception of people who have received a suspended sentence.

According to the high court and district court’s legal interpretation, although the first item of the article states that people who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of greater than one year cannot practice law, they do not unequivocally lose their qualification.

The Attorney Disciplinary Committee must maintain that the charges have affected people’s moral fitness to practice law and remove their qualification to meet the requirements of the act, the interpretation said.

The disciplinary committee has not removed the former prosecutor’s qualification, the interpretation said.

The association urged the government to amend the act.

If the law allows judges or prosecutors who have violated the core ethics of the law to become attorneys, this deviates from people’s expectations of the law, said Control Yuan member Lin Ya-feng (林雅鋒), who filed the case for investigation.

The loophole in the law should be reviewed and closed, Lin said, adding that the judiciary should complete the amendment as soon as possible.

The judicial committee also requested that the judiciary make amendments to the act in accordance with the Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

According to Article 5 of the Constitution, people’s right of existence and right to work should be guaranteed, Lin said.

However, if the work is closely related to the public interest, within the limits of the principle of proportionality in Article 23 of the Constitution, Article 15 can be restricted by law, Lin said.

The legal profession has distinctive characteristics, Lin said.

The guarantee of lawyers’ right to work should not be in conflict with the right to a fair trial, which constitutes the public interest; that is, the members of the courtroom should at a minimum be in accordance with formal justice, Lin said.

From the standpoint of the public’s relationship with the law, if people doubt the fairness of the attorney, judge or prosecutor upon first sight, this will erode the core of legal logic, Lin added.

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