Sat, Jul 21, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Jury proponents call for US-style elected justices

‘DINOSAUR JUDGES’:Having judges elected by the public would not only weed out corruption, but could also bring sentencing in line with public expectations, the group said

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The Taiwan Jury Association yesterday called for mechanisms to remove unsuitable judges and suggested that Taiwan emulate the US, where citizens elect some judges.

“Judicial elections” in the US, where voters decide, are a good way to eliminate corrupt judges and would complement the judiciary’s Judge Evaluation System, introduced in 2012 after the promulgation of the Judges Act (法官法), association chairman Chang Ching (張靜) said.

Putting the two systems into practice could oust justices that some have called “dinosaur judges,” who have issued rulings that did not meet the public’s expectations and have been perceived as handing out lenient sentences for murder and other serious crimes, Chang said.

Electing judges leads to term limits and allows the public to remove judges who have a record of misconduct, transgressions or dereliction of duty, said Chang, a former judge and former attorney.

“The problem is that since the Judges Act was promulgated, it has become more difficult punish or remove unsuitable judges,” he said.

“Since 2012, we have seen no reduction in the number of dinosaur judges, corrupt judges or justices who cater to the whims of the government and politicians,” Chang added.

He and other association members cited the recently upheld 16-year sentence for former Taiwan High Court judge Hu Ching-pin (胡景彬), who took NT$46 million (US$1.5 million at the current exchange rate) in bribes and was found to be living a lavish lifestyle, with three wives and owning numerous properties.

They also pointed to the recent impeachment of High Court judges Chu Liang (朱樑), who was allegedly found to have consorted with prostitutes, and Tseng Mou-kuei (曾謀貴), who accepted bribes in connection with a case that he was presiding over.

“The average age in the US for first-time judges is 45, and in the UK, it is 47. In Taiwan, the first-time judges are 25 to 27 years old,” Chang said. “So Taiwan’s younger judges lag behind the UK and US, lacking 20 years of work experience in society and experience dealing with people.”

Requirements in the US are different from those in Taiwan: Students in the US graduate from law school at age 25, then they need to pass the bar examination to practice law and only after working as lawyers for at least 10 years are they eligible to stand in elections to become a judge,” Chang said.

The US introduced judicial elections in the early 20th century as it saw a need to have truly independent judges, attorney Jerry Cheng (鄭文龍) said, adding that the system weeded out unsuitable or corrupt judges.

“Over more than 100 years of practice, the US has found that elected judges reflect the prevailing views and standards of the public much better,” Cheng said.

“A judge’s authority comes from the people, but in Taiwan, we see that some judges feel superior, behave arrogantly and show disdain for other people,” he added.

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