I’ve posted several articles criticizing the Philippine Supreme Court. One aspect I haven’t covered is the background of the justices themselves. In a new article in the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Dante B. Gatmaytan and Cielo Magno argue that the justices overwhelmingly come from the same socioeconomic class. In fact, over 75% were graduates of the University of the Philippines. Moreover, all of the presidents since Marcos have drawn from this same pool, with little statistically significant difference between them on most factors.
Interestingly, some groups in the Philippines have proposed raising the threshold for disqualification for applicants to the Supreme Court. The proposal would allow more and more diverse candidates to apply. However, in a speech to the Judicial and Bar Council, Chief Justice Corona rejected the reforms as simply encouraging underqualified to waste the committee’s time.
Of course, one underlying question is how much diversity should
be on the bench? As Ran Hirschl
argues, more so than the political branches of government, judiciaries tend to attract lawyers with elite, non-populist backgrounds. Moreover, when political leaders face pressure from the bar and legal advocates, they also face pressure to appoint highly qualified individuals. These requirements already impose several filters on the types of individuals who reach the supreme court. Indeed, on the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the increased gender and racial diversity, all of the sitting justices attended Harvard or Yale…
I read a few of the chapters in Appointing Judges in an Age of Judicial Power: Critical Perspectives from around the World. I have to say I was disappointed with the Southeast Asia chapter. I noticed several basic errors with regards to countries i know well (for example, the Philippine Constitution was promulgated in 1987, not 1993). Furthermore, many of the “insights” were not all that insightful. I hope nobody needs to read this book to find out that the Communist Party of Vietnam has a monopoly over judicial appointments. This book is useful for getting an overview on the judicial appointment process of various countries, but be wary of relying on it alone without double-checking the country’s laws.