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Wanted: young chief justice

09:24 PM June 26, 2012

Only lawyers seem to have opinions on the chief justice, lawyers who have too much stake in the present system that they probably cannot think of drastic change. For once, allow this non-lawyer to share an opinion.

The tradition of appointing a senior jurist as chief justice does not give him enough time to reform the justice system.

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God knows what is endemically wrong with our justice system: (1) the presence of corrupt and/or incompetent judges, and the difficulty of removing them; (2) the interminably long adjudication of court cases—as much as 20 to 30 years—that our Constitution says must be resolved within two years; and (3) justice delayed—and therefore denied—with the poor who cannot afford expensive lawyers and lengthy litigations at the losing end.

There is nothing unusual about appointing a young chief justice: Cayetano Arellano was 54 years old when he was appointed, and Jose Yulo was 47. The present chief justice of the US Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr., was only 55 when he was appointed.

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Previous experience on the bench is not important: Antonio Carpio and Renato Corona were in the presidential legal staff, as was Roberts. Earl Warren was governor of California with a bad history of interning Japanese-Americans during the war; yet as chief justice, he changed the judicial landscape of the United States—ending the “separate but equal” school segregation of the blacks, instituting the “Miranda rights” doctrine of due process, and requiring the “one-man-one-vote” rules of apportioning political representation.

We need a young chief justice to serve for decades, so he can reform the justice system: (1) to encourage the public to complain about corrupt and incompetent judges who sell their judgments, or whose judgments are consistently overturned by higher courts, or who delay and deny justice to the poor; (2) to consciously shorten the time for the adjudication of court cases—by conspicuously rewarding judges who clear their dockets every year or render judgment within the constitutionally prescribed two-year limit; by automatically accusing those who lie under oath in court cases of perjury; by imposing the highest penalty on the guilty; and by delineating a clear and logical pathway to resolve continually recurring issues.

We hope that with the appointment of a young crusader as chief justice, the time will be past for lawyers and judges waxing rich on the legal expenses of families quarrelling over inheritance; for rich litigants who never pay their debts because they can bribe lower courts to keep the case going for years while they make 25-percent return on money owed, on which eventually the Supreme Court orders them to pay only 6 percent per annum.

I know of a case in which a rich man sued a poor man for a land which he contracted to buy, but on which he never paid a down payment, boasting, “I can keep this case in the courts till you lose for lack of money to pay your lawyers.” After 10 years he won the land by default.

The travesty of justice must be stopped.

—JOSE DE LA CRUZ,

[email protected]

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TAGS: chief justice, court corruption, letters, Supreme Court
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