When the issue of the last CJ joining a law firm as a Consultant almost soon
after his retirement cropped up more than a year ago, the Bar Council was of the
position that there must be a "cooling–off period" of about 3 years. The then
"Minister of Law", Rais Yatim gave us all the assurance there would be changes
in the law governing conduct of judges after retirement from the Bench. He gave
me at least the impression that this would be incorporated in the Code of
Conduct of Judges.
When a Judge of the High Court, Court of Appeal and/or Federal Court resigns and joins a law firm – a lot of questions arise like whether he was biased in favour of that firm in the last days/weeks/months/years of his service as a Judge. It also opens the possibility that Judges (especially those close to retirement) may be biased in favour of the "bigger" firms who can afford to employ them after their term of office as Consultants or Lawyers.
Judges should NEVER join law firms and/or Private Companies immediately after retirement. They should also not be accepting offers from the Government to become Chairpersons and/or sit in some Commissions and/or Government bodies/agencies. Is the government "rewarding" 'good' judges who "listened" and/or who "behaved"? We must not forget that the Government is also many a time made a party in suits before the court – and JUDGES who sit and hear these cases must never (and also never be seen to be) Pro–Government and/or Anti–Government but must mete out Justice as an INDEPENDENT JUDGE.
Judges must be independent – be seen to be independent when they are sitting on the bench and therefore what they do after retirement also matters.
What do many people think when a law–firm employs a CJ or Federal Court Judge or other Judges as a Consultant/Lawyer –––– well, the message that goes out is that this "law firm" will have a greater advantage when it comes to a court battle – because after all our ex–Judge was the "boss" or the "senior" or the "buddy" of the sitting judges and all the court staff/Registrars did serve under him/her or will definitely not say "NO" to our ex–Judges request for speedy dates, etc – TRUE or NOT TRUE is not the issue but the issue is the perception of people. When law firms appoint these "ex–Judges" as their employees, they may unwittingly undermine the principle of the Independence of the Judiciary.
Alas, the matter was raised in Parliament recently, and according to the report that appeared in Harakah Online, NOTHING is being done or has been done about this serious matter even though the then MINISTER did give the assurance that something will be done.
Now, apparently the conduct of Judges after retirement is left to their own "wisdom" – so the ball is at the feet of ex–Judges and soon–to–be retiring Judges, and my only hope is that until some rules of conduct are in place, Judges will do the right thing by not joining law–firms and/or private companies and/or accepting certain government appointments in the interest of preserving the public perception that the Malaysian judiciary is independent.