Snubbed by Najib, Ex-Judge Hishamudin Yunus Picked to Fill Judicial Openings

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Retired judge Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus has been appointed to a panel tasked to select prospective new judges or recommend existing ones for promotion.

Hishamudin, a former Court of Appeal judge who is now a consultant at a law firm, was picked by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

Yusof Mat Isa

“The appointment takes effect from September 4, 2018,” the law firm Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill said in a press statement today.

The law firm explained that the JAC was formed in 2009 to ensure that there would be no “bias and prejudice” in the selection process of candidates for judicial positions for the prime minister to consider.

“Just five years ago, in 2013, Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus’ nomination by the Judicial Appointments Commission to the Federal Court witnessed rejection by the then prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak,” the law firm said.

It is unclear why Najib had disagreed to Hishamudin’s promotion to be a Federal Court judge prior to the latter’s retirement.

Hishamudin, who has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law from the London School of Economics and Political Science, had throughout his legal career in the Malaysian Judicial and Legal Services served in various roles such as the drafting of laws and advising state governments.

These include acting as deputy public prosecutor, deputy parliamentary draftsman, state legal adviser, president of the Sessions Court and chief registrar of the Supreme Court (now known as the Federal Court).

His years of service at the High Court started with his appointment as a judicial commissioner in 1992.

He became a High Court judge in 1994 until his promotion 15 years later, in 2009, to be a judge at the Court of Appeal, where he remained until his retirement in 2015.

According to the law firm’s website, Hishamudin has written nearly 750 judgments in his over 20 years of service in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

The law firm also listed today some landmark rulings that were made in cases presided by Hishamudin, including in a case where three Muslim transgenders challenged the validity of a state law that made cross-dressing a crime.

In the 2014 Court of Appeal ruling, Hishamudin had delivered a three-man panel’s unanimous decision to strike down the Section 66 provision in the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment 1992 – which punishes Muslim men for cross-dressing – as unconstitutional and invalid.

Hishamudin, who is from Negri Sembilan, had in a majority judgment of a 2-1 decision at the Court of Appeal held that Section 15(5)(a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 was unconstitutional due to its contradiction of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Section 15(5)(a) prohibits students from expressing either support for or opposition towards any political party.

Even as a High Court judge, Hishamudin had, in a rare decision in 2007, awarded RM2.5 million to a man who sued the government over the latter’s unlawful detention for almost two months under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Hishamudin had also in 2001 ordered the release of two ISA detainees – who were involved in the Reformasi movement after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s 1998 sacking – on a habeas corpus writ, and had also proposed in his ruling that Parliament consider either scrapping or amending the ISA to prevent or minimise its abuse.

After his retirement as a judge, Hishamudin is now a fellow at the Asian International Arbitration Centre, which also accredited him as an arbitrator. – Malay Mail