A government panel on judicial reform will work to make the career system for judges more transparent and objective, following a Supreme Court report saying the current system lacks a legal framework for assessing those serving on the bench.
The Judicial Reform Council plans to discuss improvements to the system after the top court reported for the first time that promotion or demotion of judges is based on such factors as the rulings they have given, the number of cases they have handled and the opinions of chief judges, members of the panel said.
According to the report, career moves by judges depend on reports submitted annually by the judges themselves on their career, their health status and desire for new posts, as well as the views of their bosses.
National civil servants have their efficiency ratings regularly set by their bosses in accordance with the National Public Service Law, and personnel reshuffles are based on these evaluations. The law, however, does not cover judges.
Officials at the top court’s Personnel Affairs Bureau currently examine judge’s rulings to see whether they correctly cover all the facts, are reasonable and made within a proper time limit.
They also check to see whether the judge has managed to bring about a court-mediated settlement in civil suits within a certain time frame, the report says.
The report says a judge who handles numerous cases but whose rulings are slapdash cannot gain a high rating, while a judge who takes a long time to settle difficult cases is highly regarded.
The personnel bureau said the views of chief judges are only one factor influencing its decisions.
“A comprehensive approach is taken on personnel matters, and decisions are made at the top court’s judicial assembly,” a bureau official said. “It is our goal to make the system more transparent, but we want to study the issue carefully in order to not impair the independence of judges.”
Lawyers have criticized the judges’ career system, claiming those who do not deal with cases in accordance with the top court’s methods could face demotion.
The fixed annual pay hike for judges for the first 20 years after their appointment is another example of the system’s rigidity.
The judicial reform panel said in their meeting last month that the current system restrains judges, depriving them of independence.
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