Suicide of Taiwanese judge highlights urgent need for judicial system reforms


13th April 2024 – (Taipei) The sudden death of Judge Li Chao-ran from the Shilin District Court in Taipei has sent shockwaves through Taiwan’s judicial community, prompting urgent calls for comprehensive reforms. At just 38 years old, Judge Li tragically fell from his dormitory building early on Friday, April 12, and was declared deceased after emergency services rushed him to the hospital. An ongoing investigation into the circumstances of his death has been announced by the Judicial Yuan, which has also offered support services to his colleagues.

According to reports by UDN, Judge Li left behind a note for his wife, who is also a judge in Taipei, expressing regret for his departure. Known for their kindness, efficiency, and dedication, the couple were respected figures within the legal community. The incident, however, has not only mourned but also angered many, highlighting what is perceived as systemic failures within the Judicial Yuan.

Criticism has been particularly directed towards Hsu Li-Zhong, the President of the Judicial Yuan and Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, for what many see as inadequate administrative practices. Colleagues of Judge Li, speaking to UDN, have voiced concerns over the immense pressures faced by judges, especially in high-profile districts like Shilin. They argue that the expectation to handle a high volume of serious cases to gain promotion is unsustainable and likely contributed to the mental and emotional toll experienced by Judge Li.

An unnamed colleague highlighted a longstanding issue with the distribution of administrative resources across Taiwan. Despite the rising number of cases, there appears to be little progress in addressing the allocation of workload, which remains heavily skewed towards certain districts. This imbalance has prompted the Judges Association of Taiwan to demand action.

In response to the tragedy, the association has issued a press release calling for the Judicial Yuan to implement a cap on the number of cases each judge can handle monthly. Furthermore, they urge a reevaluation of the criteria for judicial promotions, advocating for a system that places less emphasis on the sheer volume of cases processed.

The Shilin District Court, where Li served, is known as a stepping stone for those aspiring to higher judicial positions. However, the prestige comes at the cost of an overwhelming burden, with promotions largely hinged on case throughput rather than the quality of jurisprudence.