How the Supreme People’s Court guides the lower courts through cases in its publications (1)

IMG_6372The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) guides the lower courts in many ways.  One way is by publishing “trial guides”(审判指导丛书) and other related specialized publications.  I have recently spoken about the cases in some of these publications.  The cases published in these trial guides are for the most part not “guiding cases” (指导性案例) and therefore may not be cited in a court judgment.  However, because they have been specially selected by the SPC, they are quite persuasive to the lower courts and therefore important to legal professionals.  The SPC sees them as a supplement to legislation, judicial interpretations, various types of judicial normative documents/judicial documents/(司法规范性文件/司法文件) and useful in providing a source for judicial interpretation drafting. I have called these cases ”stealth” guidance or “soft precedents”, as they are used without citation in judgments. This blogpost introduces cases found in several of these trial guides.

The series Reference to Criminal Trial (刑事审判参考), edited by a team from the five SPC criminal divisions is invaluable to anyone wanting a detailed understanding of the issues in the criminal justice system, as seen by insiders (and approved for general distribution).

As can be seen from the photo from a recent issue, the first section is a collection of guidance cases (指导案例). These are not guiding cases as approved by the SPC judicial committee and translated by the Stanford Project. These are cases selected by the editors. Issue #115 has a number of cases related to the crime of organizing, providing premises, and introducing prostitution. Several others discuss whether the death penalty should be applied in the circumstances described.  As the editors describe them: “these are typical cases selected for their research value in the determination of facts, adoption & application of evidence, law, and criminal punishment, to provide guidance & reference for those in criminal justice” “选择在认定事实,采行证据,法律适用和裁量刑罚…为了刑事司法工作人员处理类似案件提供具体指导和参考.”

Screenshot 2019-12-09 at 9.54.08 PMAnother specialized publication is the Guide to Foreign-Related Commercial and Maritime Trial, edited by the #4 Civil Division. As can be seen from the photos (and discussed in an earlier blogpost, some of the cases in the issue are entitled replies (some  called 答复 and others entitled 复函), while others are called cases (案例).  As mentioned in that earlier blogpost, the replies are from the SPC to a request from instructions (请示) from provincial-level courts (including the higher courts of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing), as required by the SPC’s Prior Reporting system for cross-border arbitration matters (for example, as when a lower court intends to refuse the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award).  The #4 Civil Division publishes both the request for instructions as well as their response, while the SPC Administrative Division (in their publication Administrative Law Enforcement and Administrative Adjudication (行政执法与行政审判) (pictured below) only publishes their responses to the lower courts.

admin litigation publication

The cases published in these publications are ones that the editors consider significant. The editors of the Guide to Foreign-related Commercial and Maritime Trial describe the cases as providing powerful guidance”– “cases provide methods of thought for resolving similar issues” (具有较强的指导意义”“为了…遇到类似问题提供了解决思路”).  The editors of Administrative Law Enforcement and Administrative Adjudication describe their selected cases as being typical and guiding significance (具有典型和指导意义的审判案例. Lower court judges take the cases in these publications as providing very useful reference materials when they are presented with similar issues.  It is part of a larger effort by the SPC to use prior cases to guide the lower courts in applying their discretion.



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