1/04/2009

Seoul Bar Association Implements Assessment of Judges

Seoul Bar Association announced that it will begin assessing 700 judges in almost all Seoul courts including Seoul High Court, Seoul Administrative Court, Seoul Family Court, and all Seoul district courts.

The results, according to the Seoul Bar Association, will be kept confidential. A report on the outcome of the evaluations will be given to the Supreme Court. However, the Seoul Bar Association noted, according to Law Times, that the evaluations could be made public if the evaluations are not reflected in judicial evaluations conducted by the Supreme Court next February.

I was quoted by Asian Legal Business as being opposed to the plan.

But there are several problems this poses for the judiciary, said Sean Hayes, a lawyer at Logos Attorneys at Law and the only foreign lawyer to be hired by the Korean Constitutional Court. Hayes said that evaluations may put pressure on the decisions of the judge, especially in a criminal case which could sway the decision towards a more defendant-friendly sentence.

"Korean lawyers often get paid based on contingency fees, even in criminal cases. So a judge might be perceived as a good judge when that judge rules in favour of defendants, since lawyers are getting paid based on the outcome of the case."

Hayes noted that Korean sentences are very low compared to other developed nations. The issue is also surrounded by cultural dilemmas. Korean judges are often younger than the lawyers, since a Korean lawyer begins their career as a judge and then turns to private practice. Hayes questions whether the evaluation program will
have a significant effect, but maintains that the integrity of the judge's decision should be upheld.

"Order is something that should be kept. Sometimes a judge needs to be tough, especially a younger judge. I don't know if this will have a huge effect. But there will be certain judges red-flagged for bad reasons, for example being victim friendly, which could cost practising lawyers money."