As they face public demand for judicial reform, the most pressing issue for Taiwan’s judges and prosecutors is not how to resist political interference, but how to deal with scrutiny from the public and media, judiciary employees told a forum yesterday.
Contrary to what most people think, political interference in judicial processes is “almost non-existent and impossible” in all but a few cases, a judge, a prosecutor and a former Judicial Yuan secretary-general said.
“[Politicians interfering] is not even an issue. What does matter for the impartiality of rulings is the judge’s ideology and political beliefs,” Judge Chen Chin-hsien (陳欽賢) said at a judicial reform forum organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Prosecutor Chen Jui-jen (陳瑞仁) and former Judicial Yuan secretary-general Fan Kuang-chun (范光群) agreed with Chen’s view that the opinions of the press and the public on verdicts is what bothers prosecutors and judges most.
“I’ve always joked that we have now entered a new era of judicial independence where we have to be independent from media rather than political interference,” Chen said.
Questions asked by the public and media on several controversial verdicts, in particular regarding sexual assault cases, as well as criticism on the so-called “dinosaur judges” or “baby judges” were understandable, but judicial members always have to make decisions and judgements based on evidence, the three said.
Lawyers who attended the forum, which focused on political interference, the mechanism for removing judges and prosecutors, and civil participation, had different ideas, saying that political interference has not waned and it is of critical importance to create a judicial system politicians cannot get their hands on.
On the issue of civil participation, most forum participants supported the adoption of an observer jury system, which they said would be progress despite that such a jury’s decision would not be binding.
Lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) said that to undertake a complete reform of the “authoritarian judicial system,” it would be better to model the jury system after those seen in Western countries instead of creating an inexplicable observer system.
Despite the adoption of the Judges’ Act (法官法), which stipulated the creation of a system for evaluating judges and a mechanism to remove incompetent ones from their posts, the most difficult part of judicial reform would involve the elimination mechanism, lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said.
A better solution would be to diversify the recruitment sources of judges by having more experienced lawyers and prosecutors work as judges, he said.