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Measure to disclose ‘worst judges’ may fizzle out

Posted January. 20, 2014 07:04,   


The Seoul Bar Association (Chairman Nah Seung-cheol) announced a plan to publicize a list of five "worst judges" for the first time, but the Supreme Court recently proposed the association to form a consultative body, while asking to “reconsider releasing of the list.”

According to the legal community, the Supreme Court sent a working-level delegation of senior judges to the Seoul Bar Association early this month, and proposed dialogue, asking the association to “reconsider releasing of the list of junior level judges.” At the meeting, the Supreme Court reportedly proposed the formation of a consultative body tasked with addressing problems in court by using the association’s materials on judge evaluation as basic reference. The Supreme Court thus suggested that it would seek to establish an organization in the form of research group or committee, which will monitor court trials and gather opinion for a year or constantly.

As a result, the association will hold an executive committee meeting on Monday, and discuss whether to accept the proposal, and put off releasing of the list of junior level judges in question.

However, it is uncertain whether the Seoul Bar Association will accept the proposal. The organization has been demanding the results of its evaluation, including unjust proceeding of trials, use of abusive language as well as performance assessment of judges. Some hardline lawyers are even demanding that the results of the association’s evaluation be immediately reflected in performance assessment of judges scheduled in February.

The Seoul Bar Association concluded a 2013 survey on judge evaluation on Friday. The association conducted an online survey for the first time, and the number of evaluation exceeded 4,000 cases, with more than 1,000 lawyers participating in the survey. Compared with last year’s survey that involved 450 lawyers, the sample size thus more than doubled. The association believes that the credibility of its evaluation of judges has increased, with more lawyers participating in the survey.

In Japan where treatment of judges is similar to that in Korea, the person with the authority to conduct performance assessment is recommended to take into consideration external evaluations. Clause 2 under Article 3 of the “Rules on performance assessment of judges” provides that “In performance evaluation (of judges), judges’ independence should be considered, while efforts shall be made to gain multi-dimensional and multilateral information. In this case, information from outside the court shall be taken into consideration.”

The committee on appointment of judges at lower courts, which is comprised of six people in the legal community, including five judges and lawyers and a professor, evaluates judges based on the performance indicators agreed upon with the highest court, including attitude toward people involved in lawsuits, sincerity, capacity to command proceeding of trials, and application of laws, and presents opinion to the highest court. Over the past six years since the committee system was introduced, a total of 28 judges have been denied appointment due to ineligibility. The highest court has never made decision incompatible with the results of the committee’s review.

In the U.S., the evaluation results of state court judges are made public in real names on bar associations’ websites, enabling ordinary citizens to access. Germany and the U.K. are discussing whether to introduce a system in which lawyers evaluate judges.