Hiring More Supreme Court Judges Is a Stopgap Measure

      March 18, 2010 13:03

      The ruling Grand National Party is taking steps to reform the judiciary by increasing the number of Supreme Court judges from the present 14 to 24 over the next 10 years so they can specialize in different areas of the law. One-third of the new 24 justices will be chosen from a pool of legal experts outside the judiciary. The GNP said the reason for the move is to lighten the workload of individual judges.

      In 2009, a total of 32,361 cases were brought before the Supreme Court, where 12 judges handled around 2,700 cases each that year, or seven a day. This is why the Supreme Court has been criticized for failing to do its job of setting the boundaries in the hottest issues of our time.

      But the solution may not be to simply increase the number of judges. More and more cases are being appealed each year, rising from 16,492 in 2000 to 28,040 in 2008. That is an increase of more than 1,000 additional cases each year. Raising the number of judges may lighten their workload in the short term, but the 24 judges will soon become inundated with a sea of appeals. Will that mean hiring even more judges? Other countries retain roughly the same number of Supreme Court justices as Korea. There are nine in the U.S., 12 in the U.K. and 15 in Japan. There are 123 Supreme Court justices in Germany, but the country has a different legal system from Korea, with five different types of courts of law handling cases in different sectors such as trade, administration, finance, labor and social issues.

      In order to let the Supreme Court perform its duty, Korea should consider alternatives such as fixing the reflex among Koreans to appeal cases. This can be done by bolstering public confidence in the decisions of the lower courts and allowing the five High Courts in the country to serve as the top court of appeal for minor cases.

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