Monday, December 3, 2007

Judicial Committees Reformed for Fairer Rulings

Judicial reform has been a pretty hot topic these days on the Chinese judges’ mind. When Grand Justice Wang Erxiang last visited the United Stated to deliver his speech at a function organized by the Organization of American States, he detailed past reforms to the Chinese judiciary, and sketched out a blueprint for future reform targets. At the U.S.-China Rule of Law Forum held at SMU Dedman School of Law this month, the topic also surfaced during the program.

And just a few days ago, Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court of China, Xiao Yang, announced some more reforms to the judiciary. Changes introduced by the reforms focus on how judicial committees in each court conduct their business. Judicial committees are “the highest decision-making bodies in the Chinese judicial system.” From now on, judicial committee members must cease to make their rulings behind the curtains, and must “join the bench to hear or try cases themselves.” With respect to decisions, the judges of judicial committees will cast secret ballots to reach agreements (assuming that majority vote controls).

If these changes do occur in the first instance courts (trial courts), it is hopeful that quality of judicial decisions might improve. After all, judicial committees used to rule on cases without sitting on the bench. I understand that a heavy portion of trials is about written advocacy and examining real evidence, but it is quite baffling to have trial judges making final rulings on cases without taking a single look at the parties involved. Maybe, forcing decision-making judges to be present on the bench will have a positive impact on the overall quality of rulings. At least, they will have a better picture/understanding of cases by hearing or trying them on the bench, rather than in their chambers.

Well, for whatever its worth is, here is the report on this out of the Supreme People’s Court.

No comments: