Inter-Party Negotiations on Judicial Reform Start Today
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The governing and opposition parties will begin deliberations on reform measures for the judiciary, the prosecution and lawyers today.
Prospects for the bipartisan committee to produce an agreement remain uncertain as the two sides differ over what needs to be reformed.
The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) seeks to take tougher regulations for the judiciary, while the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) plans to put prosecutors under a strict code of conduct.
The ad hoc panel will be in session until August.
The governing party pledged Monday to uproot the bad practice of sitting judges giving special consideration to judges-turned-lawyers when ruling on legal cases that were defended by the latter.
Under the plan, judges-turned-lawyers would be prohibited for a year from taking cases involving a conflict of legal interests in the region where they previously served as district judges.
The GNP came up with the idea after several higher or Supreme Court judges became high-paying lawyers and took advantage of their connections with the courts in high-profile legal battles.
The measure was part of the five-point proposal to reform the way lawyers work.
The proposal also said the justice minister will be required to set binding guidelines on legal fees that counselors will take and inform the public of the regulations with public notices. This is aimed at preventing lawyers from overcharging their clients.
Those who violate the rule will either have their licenses suspended or face other punitive measures.
Lawyers who practice in neighborhoods considered safe havens for crime will receive subsidies from either the central or local governments.
The ruling party made public the reform measures for lawyers, after it unveiled a set of proposals for the judiciary and the prosecution last week.
The GNP's plan to fix bad practices in the three entities drew criticism from stakeholders.
In particular, a backlash came from the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon accused the GNP of showing little respect for the judiciary.
Lee said reforming the judiciary was not a job that should be done by the ruling party, emphasizing lawmakers should have listened to what judges said before going ahead with the announcement.
His criticism came in response to the GNP's plan to increase the number of justices from the current nine to 24, and to consider experience and seniority as guidelines for eligibility to become judges.
The conflict between the ruling party and the judiciary continued.
GNP floor leader Rep. Ahn Sang-soo warned Monday that his party will continue to work toward correcting bad practices within the judiciary.
Other senior GNP lawmakers noted that the ruling party's reform plans are what they are trying to achieve during the inter-party negotiations, hinting they could make concessions if necessary.