Marginalia on Japanese politics and society
The last two paragraphs are key I feel. While I would believe in longer terms for judges and prosecutors than normal (say slightly longer than 2) political cycles, we should probably question lifetime appointments. It is important to ensure they can act relatively free from influence of course, but I guess the principle of "political" non-interference prevents us as well as politicians from doing anything when they turn political (in the short-term calculating sense - whether judges should have a certain judicial outlook which can lead to ideological decisions is a different question)Perhaps Japan's system of voting for judges has some potential although from my understanding not a lot of attention is paid to it by voters at elections.
Elected judges seem to be a bad idea, as evidenced by places that have them.I'm afraid the only solution is the same as that of keeping an honest, reputable police force: foster a culture of impartiality and tolerance, backed up by extensive checks and harsh sanctions for those who misbehave. Not easy.
As a policy response, yes you may be right that elected judges may not be the ideal option especially with contemporary media's dereliction of its 4th estate duty. There are other options though - elected by a parliament; independent parliamentary office be established, and reports back to the legislative branch who can then take action on identified cases of abuse of power; implementation of term limits; or some other option. Not something I have looked into from a policy point of view. But I am not sure if this is quite the same as the maintenance of an impartial police force. The police are part of the public service apparatus and the executive branch, and thus the sanctions for misbehaviour and untoward behaviour, even short of a crime, are much clearer.Even if like in NZ their is an independent police commissioner, someone with the public's best interest in mind can exercise authority. There is no real oversight by anyone over judges in most countries that are not corrupt. Once appointed (problem further compounded by lifetime appointments), they are there unless they commit a crime. This does not preclude political meddling. While in theory there is the ability for executive authority to be exercised over prosecutors, as seen in situations like the one in Japan now, that there is no real authority to arbitrate on cases involving the current government without it smacking of political interference. Even if they are wrong, the fecal matter still sticks - a hell of a power to have!At the end of the day, I don't entirely agree that there is "no reason to trust judges and prosecutors more than presidents and legislators", but I would agree that there is no reason to trust them much more.
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