An ex-judge has opposed a proposal to break up the country’s judicial and legal services, saying it would limit officers’ career opportunities in both divisions.
Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah said the problem is when the Attorney-General promotes his officers independently of the Chief Justice, which would deprive judicial officers of deserved promotions, noting that cross transfers and promotion of officers were previously decided jointly by both the AG and CJ.
“I support the status quo; it prepares the officers to be [well-rounded] as DPP and magistrates, legal advisers and Sessions Court judges before becoming judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court,” Mohd Noor told Malay Mail Online.
“Thus, change the managers, and not the system which has surpassed 57 years. Or alternatively, let the judicial and legal officers decide themselves at their EGM,” he added.
According to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission’s website, the commission is headed by the chairman of the Public Services Commission, Tan Sri Arpah Abdul Razak, while the members comprise AG Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of the High Court in Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, among others. The commission’s functions cover appointments, promotions, and transfers of members of judicial and legal services.
The judicial services division comprises magistrates, Sessions Court judges, registrars, special officers and researchers to judges including the Chief Registrar, deputy and assistant. The legal services division comprises the AG; officers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers such as the solicitor-general, draftsman, advisors, prosecutors, state and ministry legal advisors, and legal assistants.
Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria proposed last month that the Chief Registrar replace the AG as head of judicial services to prevent a conflict of interest and negative perceptions of the independence of the judiciary, while the AG can lead legal services.
The Malaysian Bar has backed Arifin’s proposal while pro-moderation group G25 said Monday that the judicial and legal services should be separated entirely into two different commissions.
Noor Abdullah, however, said separating the judicial and legal services would prevent judicial officers from getting more varied career opportunities in legal services.
“[In the judicial service], you can only be magistrate, Sessions Court judge, registrar ― only three jobs. If you’re not appointed a [High Court] judge, for 20, 30 over years, you’ll remain there,” he said.
“If you go to the legal service, you can become a state legal advisor, ministry legal advisor, registrar of companies, senior federal counsel, DPP, registrar of societies, public trustee ― many opportunities where officers are exposed to a lot of work,” he added.
Former DPP Afifuddin Ahmad Hafifi, however, supported Arifin and G25’s suggestions to separate the judicial and legal services.
“It’s good for check and balance,” he told Malay Mail Online. “It’s a good move because the AG should be seen to act independently from the judiciary and vice versa, the judiciary should act independently from the AG”.
A former judge, who requested anonymity, similarly backed the proposals to separate the judicial and legal services.
“It should be separated to have separation of powers,” he said.