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President Tsai attends summary meeting for Presidential Office National Conference on Judicial Reform
President Tsai attends summary meeting for Presidential Office National Conference on Judicial Reform

President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the summary meeting of the Presidential Office National Conference on Judicial Reform on August 12 at the Presidential Office. In the opening remarks, the president stated that the National Conference had made initial strides toward openness, transparency, and public participation. She also emphasized that when drafting future legislation, the government will continue soliciting a wide range of public opinion to ensure that judicial reforms are well conceived and comprehensive.

The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:

Today we are holding the summary meeting of the Presidential Office National Conference on Judicial Reform. I want to start by thanking the people from all walks of life who have participated in these judicial reform efforts, as well as my many colleagues in government who have worked so hard on this undertaking.

The people of Taiwan have been following judicial reform issues closely. Over the past 10 months, we have taken a prudent approach to conducting the conference, holding six meetings of the Preparatory Committee and a total of 40 meetings of the five subcommittees. These meetings resulted in over 100 hours of discussions. Every meeting, every conclusion, and every recommendation is an integral part of the conference.

In addition to inviting experts and scholars to the meetings, we have also used the Internet to solicit public opinion on judicial reform. At the same time, in order to honor our pledge to achieve openness, transparency, and public participation, we have also published video recordings, records, and verbatim minutes of every meeting.

Thanks to your dedication, we have achieved initial progress on a number of fronts:

First, we have thoroughly examined the whole range of judicial reform, and inventoried all the issues involved.

Second, you have all provided many valuable opinions that will become the foundation of future efforts by our executive, legislative, and judicial branches to implement reforms.

Third, during our discussions we have reached consensus on many issues, and these points of consensus will guide our reforms. Of course, there are also issues where we lack a consensus after extensive discussions. However, diverse voices have been heard in the course of very serious and professional dialogue, and these are all assets for our democracy.

Some ask how holding so many meetings is going to help promote judicial reform. But there’s no doubt: your efforts have spurred the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice to accelerate reforms and make concrete proposals in an active bid to respond to the public's desire for reform.

The Judicial Yuan will gradually establish the "pyramidal litigation system" that the legal profession has called for. Under this system, the court of first instance acts as the trier of fact, the court of second instance as the reviewing court, and the court of third instance as the trier of law. The point is to make the administration of justice more efficient. The Judicial Yuan will be taking steps to allow live broadcasts of courtroom proceedings to provide more transparency as needed.

And, most importantly, we need more diversity in the appointment, oversight, and dismissal of judges. In the future, our judges will have more life experience, with more channels for continuing professional education, and a more complete performance review system to improve the quality of court judgments. We are clearly aware that these are the things that people care about most.

The Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, has actively put forward reform priorities to improve the prosecutor performance review system, and make the prosecutorial system more efficient.

Among those reforms, the Ministry of Justice intends to handle cases using a teamwork method that relies on the leadership of a chief prosecutor, with all prosecutors signing off on the team's actions and taking joint responsibility. That will make prosecutors more conscientious in handling cases, and more accountable. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice is also promoting a plan to make indictments open to the public so the public can see government efforts to create a more transparent prosecutorial system.

Of course, prosecutors are keenly interested in internal reforms. Those reforms reflect calls from front-line prosecutors to exempt them from concurrently filling administrative roles, promote more democratic personnel decisions, and improve the case handling environment. 

And finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about reform of the trial system. I know that there are many different views and understand that there are many disagreements about the lay judge system versus a jury system. Subcommittee discussions didn't yield any consensus on this question.

However, after very thorough debates you did come up with a key point of consensus, which is that the current system has flaws and must be reformed. In our ongoing reform work, there has to be even more public participation. We need to get lay judges into our courtrooms. I do believe that some of you will raise still more opinions here today, and I want the Judicial Yuan to continue to listen to everyone's ideas while promoting reforms in the future.

Reform is the most important result of a change in the ruling party, and the focus of my continued efforts. However, I am very aware that reform is not some magic trick that can be pulled off in the blink of an eye. In the course of discussions, there will inevitably be differences of opinion about the content and pace of reforms, and it will take time for the public to understand certain issues. In a democracy, this is normal.

At the last meeting of the Preparatory Committee we identified 12 key issues, such as promoting public participation in the judicial system; enhancing judicial openness and transparency; creating a professional and impartial judicial system; monitoring judiciary officers and dismissing those who are unfit; and establishing a mechanism for protecting children and juveniles. These key issues give the public an overall picture of judicial reforms, and let them see what you have achieved.

At this summary meeting here today, I'm sure everyone will still have many opinions they wish to make known, and there will be some debate. It takes determination to promote ideas. Persuasion is an art. Seeing as we've invited you all to come to this meeting, it follows that we hope you'll all be able to fully express your ideas and engage in dialogue and communication.

I want to emphasize once again that this National Conference is not just a one-day ceremony, and when the ceremony is over, everything goes back to the way it was before. Our work will continue. The next step entails legislative action, in the course of which we will still be seeking everyone's opinions to ensure that judicial reforms are well conceived and comprehensive. Thank you!

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