Despite a promise to transfer power and initiate political reforms following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) poor showing in the nine-in-one elections, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) aims to retain control of the judicial system via appointments to the Council of Grand Justices, according to prominent legal expert Huang Yueh-hung (黃越宏), publisher of the Internet Gazette Law Paper (法治時報社), an influential news journal among legal professionals and in judicial circles.
Four grand justices who were appointed under former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) end their terms next year.
Huang said he and other observers expect Ma to be engaged in making nominations to the body that is charged with interpreting the Constitution.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
“When these four positions are filled, then the council will be fully composed of Ma’s appointees,” Huang said.
The appointments have direct effects on the promoting and changing of posts for a dozen or more top positions throughout the judicial system.
“Ma has meddled in the judicial process and subverted the Constitution throughout his presidency. He has pushed through several policies against the wishes of the majority,” Huang said. “Ma fears political retribution, of being prosecuted by the courts after his presidency, as has happened to former president Chen.”
“Therefore Ma is actively maneuvering for next year’s grand justices nominees, because he wants to avoid becoming a victim of political persecution,” said Huang, who is an expert on legal affairs and has written numerous books about the nation’s judicial system.
It is likely that Ma already has a shortlist of nominees, which could include Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lin Chin-fang (林錦芳), who is on good terms with Ma, and Chen Shih-hsiung (陳世雄), the supreme court judge who handed down guilty decisions against Chen Shui-bian, Huang says in an article published in a recent issue of his publication.
Huang said grand justice nominees would affect three top posts in the Judicial Yuan and also influence changes to at least 10 leading positions in the prosecutorial system.
“This is a big domino effect; the movement will impact throughout the judicial system and will also affect top posts at the Taiwan High Court as well as lower courts,” he added.
Huang said the moves expected next year would be Ma’s most crucial judicial appointments, “because he does not want to end up in prison, like ex-president Chen.”
“However, people in power are realistic on knowing who is the boss. On finishing the presidency, he is no longer in charge and nothing can be counted on as certain. Also, Ma has often treated people badly,” Huang wrote. “After his term ends, Ma could also face prosecution over financial irregularities and corruption charges, and might also end up with a jail term — just like Chen Shui-bian.”
“The nominees must receive approval from the legislature, and this must be done during the legislative session’s first half-term. Thus, the nominee list has to be finalized early next year,” Huang said.
When the time comes for legislative approval, Ma could face a contentious battle, Huang added.
“The Constitution stipulates that [seven of 15] grand justices serve an eight-year term [while others serve for four years], but during Ma’s presidency, he subverted this with his own interpretation of ‘eight-year term for one appointee,’” which would allow a new appointee to serve for eight years, Huang wrote
Some legislators regard Ma’s position on this as unconstitutional and could be expected to challenge the president on this during the confirmation process next year, Huang said.
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