A U.S. federal district court’s ruling on Feb. 3, 2017, which blocked President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, is refreshing. The temporary restraining order suspended the enforcement of the president’s immigration ban, which barred entry for refugees and other visitors from a list of seven predominantly Muslim countries, reminding us of the raison d'être for the U.S. Justice Department. The key initiative pushed by Trump’s presidency, which is less than a month old, was invalidated as the judiciary remained committed to the rule of law.
The ruling is particularly noteworthy because it is based on the judge’s independent judgement, without any political consideration or ideological inclination. The court considered whether Trump’s travel ban violated the First Amendment, and Judge James Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle recognized that the president’s executive order violates the First Amendment’s ban on laws that abridge the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. Judge Robart, a conservative appointed to the federal bench during President George W. Bush’s Republican administration, did not turn his attention away from the Constitution and toward other variables, and for doing so he was hailed a hero – he proved that no partisan logic can intervene before the law.
Meanwhile, President Trump was deeply shocked by the court’s decision. He made a personal attack against the federal judge who had halted his immigration ban by referring to him as a “so-called judge” and rebuking him with a tweet, which reads, “If something happens blame him and court system,” only to be dismissed by the Washington state attorney general who said, “No one is above the law, not even the president.” The state attorney general’s remark evokes the greatness of America, where the democratic principle of checks and balances remains undiminished.
Contrary to the U.S. judicial branch, which operates independently of political pressures, the Korean judiciary is not completely free from outside influences. It is particularly worrying that judicial independence in South Korea, in conjunction with President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment trial, is being threatened by the pro- and anti-impeachment supporter groups. By calling for the detention of certain individuals, putting pressure on the constitutional court to make a swift decision, and denying the constitutional rights of special prosecutors, they are harming the rule of law in this country. Despite their obligation to protect the law, some politicians are caught up in this hysteria, causing Koreans to raise their eyebrows.
Article 103 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates, “Judges shall rule independently according to their conscience and in conformity with the Constitution and laws.” The rule of law prohibits anyone from interfering with the courts in any fashion, and it must prevail in this nation to curtail the current political chaos.