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Saturday, January 31, 2015

WHAT ABOUT 'CORRECT CORRECT CORRECT' LINGAM? : We don’t pre-decide cases - retiring judge

WHAT ABOUT 'CORRECT CORRECT CORRECT' LINGAM? : We don’t pre-decide cases - retiring judge
PUTRAJAYA - Court of Appeal judge Mah Weng Kwai clocked out for the last time from his office today and declared with pride that he never had anyone tell him how to decide a case.
“I am very proud to say that during my five years as a judge, I never once had a phone call or directive or even a suggestion by any of the senior judges to say ‘this is how you decide a case or decide it in this way and not that way,’” he told reporters.
Describing the routine at the Court of Appeal, he said the three members of the panel would sit in a room discussing how to manage the cases for the day before going up to the bench.
“There would be some preliminary views, of course, if we read the records of appeal but they are not concrete views. There is no pre-judgment,” he claimed, adding that it was important for judges to be patient in listening to the lawyers and not jump to conclusions.
“Judges can be persuaded, their preliminary views can be changed if lawyers were good in their advocacy and were persuasive enough when making their oral submissions in court,” said Mah who will turn 66 on February 4.
Referring to remarks often heard from laymen, such as, “Why should you go to the court, they have already decided,” he dismissed them as untrue.
He claimed that judges would not decide on a case before hearing it in court.
Mah said it was very important for a judge to have 100% freedom of thought and freedom to decide on a case. Otherwise, he said, there would be no point in becoming a judge. He said a person should not be a judge if he or she could not do the right thing.
Mah also said judges sitting on the Court of Appeal bench would prepare and read all the cases set before the panel for the day and they would not divide the cases among them beforehand.
Describing his life as a judge as hectic and a challenging experience, he said judges in the Court of Appeal would sit 10 working days in a month on alternate weeks and would have about 10 cases to hear on each sitting day.
“We usually prepare our cases in advance. Each case would take at least half an hour. The reading up time takes about five hours beforehand and that involves reading the grounds of judgment, memoranda of appeal and submissions,” he explained, adding that judges would also have to write their grounds of judgment if the losing party filed an appeal.
“I always loved the job being a judge. It is very interesting, I am probably going to miss it although it is hard work,” said Mah, who also had been in the judicial service for 12 years before resigning to practice as a lawyer.
National service
Mah Weng Kwai
He practised as a lawyer for 25 years before returning to the judiciary and was the Bar Council president from 2001 to 2003
“Tun Zaki Azmi (then Chief Justice) said senior lawyers must do something for society to help to clear backlog and regard it as national service; so I suppose a few of us responded to that call. That is how I ended up coming back,” he said.
He said being a judge, the most rewarding feeling was to know at the end of the day that he had a role to play in ensuring that justice was dispensed.
“I studied law because I wasn’t good enough to do science or medicine. I was in the Arts stream and law was definitely an option,” Mah said, adding that it was never his ambition to be a judge but a lawyer.
Mah said he was looking forward to his retirement because he could do the things he wanted to do at his own time.
He said after retirement, he would become a consultant to his son’s legal firm as well as do some arbitration and mediation cases. He also hopes to be empanelled with the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration.
“When I have the spare time, I hope to spend more time on my farm in Rawang. I have three fish ponds, a livestock section for chicken, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits and goats. They are all pets and not for eating,” said Mah.
He said he usually went to his farm to do some gardening every weekend which was his way of having a physical workout and to de-stress.
“My wife would ask me why I go to the farm so often. That is where I talk to my goats, they don’t talk back,” Mah quipped, adding that he enjoyed being at the farm as it was back to nature in a peaceful environment.
Mah said after his retirement, he also intended to travel and be active in charitable organisations, adding that he would be joining the St John’s Ambulance and also a non-governmental organisation active in preserving forests.
On whether he would be be appearing as a counsel, an advocate or solicitor in court, Mah replied: “No, as I believe that it is not proper for retired judges to come back to the court to act as an advocate and solicitor and appear before his former colleagues.”
He singled out three cases as the more important cases that he had decided on, namely the Teoh Beng Hock case, the Borders Bookshop case and Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad’s sedition case.
Mah’s last words to the judiciary was for the institution to maintain its independence at all times and to ensure that justice was dispensed to everyone regardless of gender and position.
He also said the judiciary had improved and had effectively cleared backlogged cases. – BERNAMA

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