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Internal promotion in Supreme Court

Posted January. 28, 2014 02:04,   


The former late U.S. President William Taft became Supreme Court Justice after stepping down as president. While inaugurating as Supreme Court Justice, Yang Seung-tae said he respects William Taft the most. Taft signed the Taft–Katsura Memorandum that admitted Japan`s colonization of Joseon Dynasty. Taft was well recognized as Supreme Court justice, but not as president. Back then in the U.S., it was common for lawmakers, state governors and secretaries of departments to land as Supreme Court justice.

Along with specialization of court in the U.S., Supreme Court justices appointed after 1975 have experiences as judges of federal appeal court. The exception comes only lately as President Barack Obama appointed Elena Kagan as Supreme Court Justice in 2010. As the first female dean at Harvard Law School, she was serving as solicitor general when appointed as Supreme Court justice but has no experience as judge. Thanks to the unitary system of lawyers in the U.S., judges have various career experiences including attorneys, lawyers, professors and government officials.

Yang recently recommended Daegu Court Justice Cho Hee-dae, as successor of Cha Han-sung, minister of National Court Administration of the Supreme Court. National Court Administration minister does not participate in trials but still is a Supreme Court judge. The 14 members of the Supreme Court led by Yang are mostly judge-turned figures. According to the Supreme Court, Yang Chang-soo returned as a judge after teaching at a university and Park Bo-yeong, who is a 17-year experience judge, returned from a law firm. Supreme Court judges are all belong to court.

There is just one judge position acting as attorney in Supreme Court but has been vacant since Justice Ahn Dae-hee stepped down. Attorney constitutes the three axis of law. Only a small number of outstanding graduates from the Judicial Research and Training Institute head to law firms. In Korea, when a person becomes judge, he or she serves as judge for a long time, risking narrow perspectives. Excluding three, all of them are men in their late 50s who graduated from Seoul National University. The constituents of Supreme Court should be diversified.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)