Duke Law joins Taiwanese legal community in mourning Jin-Fang Lin LLM ’84 SJD ’89
Jin-Fang Lin LLM ’84, SJD ’89, a prominent Taiwanese jurist and judicial reformer with deep ties to Duke Law School, died on Feb. 15 in Taipei. She was 68.
Justice Lin retired from the position of secretary general of Taiwan’s Judicial Yuan, the country’s highest judicial entity and one of its five branches of government. She was the first woman to serve in that position. She earlier served as chief judge for the Hsinchu and Taipei district courts, and as a justice of the Taiwanese Supreme Court.
Justice Lin actively promoted the digitization of court processes and was at the forefront at establishing a sentencing database, which provides a frame of reference for criminal judges in sentencing, said Huei-Huang Lin LLM ’85, a friend and colleague of Justice Lin’s who works in the Taiwanese Supreme Prosecutor’s Office.
“To Jin-Fang, the important thing was whether the legal process could be improved, could be made to function better for the people,” said Sara Sun Beale, the Charles L.B. Lowndes Professor of Law, who served as Justice Lin’s advisor in her SJD study of sentencing guidelines. “She took me to the courthouse when I visited Taipei, and showed me how she had redesigned the signage and forms so that everything would be clearer for individual citizens trying to navigate the courthouse and the legal process. They built new courtrooms, or redesigned them, with the same purpose in mind.
“She was not content with just trying to keep the trains running,” Beale said. “She had this vision that courts should work better for people — that the justice system should always be getting better.”
Justice Lin also served as chair of the Taiwan Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and was a strong advocate for women in the Taiwanese judiciary.
She is survived by her husband, Tsing-tung Huang, and son Norman Jason Huang.
Justice Lin was one of three Taiwanese students at Duke Law in the relatively early days of its LLM program, recalled Judith Horowitz, the former associate dean for International Studies. She and her young son lived next door to Horowitz and her husband, James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus Donald Horowitz, when she returned as a visiting scholar to pursue her SJD, cementing a lasting friendship.
“She was a dedicated friend,” said Horowitz. “Don and I were invited to Taiwan and while we were there she arranged a whirlwind tour. We had to get up at the crack of dawn to pay for the hotel before she could get the bill.
Associate Dean for International Studies Jennifer Maher said that Justice Lin was among the prominent Duke Law alumni from Taiwan who graduated in the 1980s and paved the way for the consistent presence of Taiwanese students in the LLM program.
“These students return to Taiwan using their Duke education to be leaders in academics, government, industry, and law firms,” she said. “Justice Lin’s encouragement and her example inspired future students to attend Duke.”
Maher and Dean David F. Levi visited Justice Lin at the Judicial Yuan building in Taipei in 2015.
“Dean Levi and I met with Justice Lin in her chambers, and our solemn surroundings demonstrated the dignity of the court, reflecting its importance in Taiwan’s legal system,” Maher said. “Justice Lin, however, was warm, welcoming, and down to earth, remembering and crediting her education at Duke Law School as helping prepare her for her position. We immediately felt friendship and also her interest in the work of Duke’s Center for Judicial Institute. We are deeply saddened by her untimely death.”