KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum today called on the Bar Council to help the judiciary in addressing issues of public perception.
Speaking at the launch of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) report on international framework for court excellence today, Malanjum said that the effort needs a joint collaboration between the judiciary and the legal fraternity, as issues concerning public perception covers both the said sides.
He then gave a pointed example whereby lawyers use their working relationship with members of the judiciary to name-drop.
“Now of course the other problem we are having, I just hope that the Bar (Council) can join us in this. Part of the reason if you ask me why sometimes the public have a very much negative outlook on the judiciary is this — if a client, and I’m using the word if, comes and sees a lawyer and he wants to impress the client that he is somebody, he can do name-dropping. He can say don’t worry. I know this judge, I know that judge. That can be quite destructive to the judiciary.
“Worst still, if the lawyer then says, ‘Look, you give me so much of money, it’s not all for me . I am going to share this with the magistrate, with the judge, with the prosecuting officer, with the policemen and so forth.’ That is the worst. I just pray that it has never happened,” Malanjum said.
He also expressed worry about the presumption of such a prevalent practise, especially when clients who seek the services of lawyers do not understand the legal system.
“I just pray that it has never happened. But can you imagine the impact of it on the clients, especially a client who may not understand the system? Malanjum asked.
He then expressed hope that the report would be a good guide in improving the judiciary and its public standing among the people.
The report, which was compiled in collaboration with the US-based National Centre for State Courts (NSC), highlights seven areas which the courts can utilise as a checklist to improve its services.
In his speech, Malanjum also called for an individual taskforce for each of the seven areas and proposed monthly meetings with heads of the taskforce to assess developments.
“So each of the seven areas, there must be a taskforce to look into it and then perhaps monthly, we can have a meeting with the heads of the taskforce to see where were heading towards.
“The biggest weakness I think of the system we are having is that there is no checklist on how we are doing. Especially on public perception. We just let it go freely and because of that, our biggest challenge now is of course negative public perception.
So, hopefully with this report, this can be our guide to do more, so that our judiciary will be in better footing in a year or two,” Malanjum added.
The seven areas to assess court excellence are; court leadership and management, court planning and policies, court resources (human, material and finance), court proceedings and procedures, client needs and satisfaction, affordable and accessible court services and public trust and confidence.
Also present at the launch were Niloy Banerjee, the resident representative for UNDP in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and UNDP’s governance and institutional reform specialist Mir Nadia Nivin, alongside former and current judges.