NATIONAL

Cabinet approves judicial reform bill

By 천성우
  • Published : May 11, 2011 - 19:13
  • Updated : May 11, 2011 - 19:13
Judges and prosecutors will be banned from taking cases for a year after retirement at courts where they worked in their last year.

The new rule is part of a revised bill on lawyers approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

The bill is applicable to military judicial officers and lawyers who serve the government as employees, as well as judges and prosecutors.

Under the revised law, they are barred for a year from accepting cases handled by courts, prosecutor’s offices, military courts, the Financial Supervisory Commission, the Fair Trade Commission or police departments in the jurisdictions where they worked before retirement.

The ban is part of efforts to eliminate a long-standing judicial practice of judges tending to rule in favor of lawyers who retired as judges or prosecutors. The custom has faced criticism with growing calls for fair investigations and trials.

Clients are known to pay higher fees to lawyers who are former judges and prosecutors fresh from retirement in the hope of getting a favorable ruling or mitigated sentence using their personal connections, especially in criminal cases in which defendants face arrest or a jail sentence.

The revised bill on lawyers caused some senior judges to consider whether to leave the courts before the bill takes effect.

Lee Jin-sung, presiding judge of Seoul Central District Court, had a meeting with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lee Yong-hoon on Monday over whether to quit, but decided on Wednesday to stay in his present post, Yonhap news agency reported.

Koo Wook-seo, presiding judge of the Seoul High Court, said that he would not resign, though it had been speculated that he was likely to offer his resignation as his term will expire in late August. Insiders expected him to quit early because he would not be able to accept cases filed to the high court for a year after his retirement.

Lee Dong-myung, presiding judge of Uijeongbu District Court, tendered his resignation to the Supreme Court on Monday. “I had no thought to practice laws in Uijeongbu. My resignation has nothing to do with the revised bill,” he told the news agency.

“Judges do not usually resign in a reshuffle off-season for the sake of trial consistency and organizational stability. But the revised bill on lawyers makes it hard to discourage them from considering resignation,” a court official said.

The revised bill on lawyers will go into effect in several days.

The Cabinet also endorsed a revised law on educational public servants, which bans those convicted of sexual assaults on minors, bribery or physical violence from being hired as regular or contract-based teachers at all elementary, middle and high schools.

By Chun Sung-woo (swchun@heraldcorp.com)