Why are Chinese judges resigning?

Much has been written on why Chinese judges are resigning (but not enough about Chinese prosecutors–to be the subject of a later blogpost), but this blogpost (written on the road) adds some more detail and analysis. Comments (and criticism) are welcomed.

In May (2016), Chen Haiguang, the head of the judicial management department of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) revealed that over 1000 judges had left, which he described as about 1% of the judiciary. The number appears to be an underestimate.  The legal Wechatosphere often mentions that a Wechat chat group of former Beijing-based (including the SPC) judges has reached its maximum of 500 members.

More data and analysis comes from two sources: a survey conducted in the fall of 2015 and published by Wusong (a big thank you to another “authoritative person” for bringing this to my attention) and a recent article by one of the more popular Wechat public accounts, Empire Lawyers ( 法客帝国).

Respondees to survey

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Six hundred former judges responded to the survey, conducted through social media, of which 72% had left within the past year, while almost 19% had left within the past 2-3 years.

Who is leaving

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Judges resigning, by sex (82.2% men, 19.67% women

It is mostly men leaving the judiciary, out of proportion  with the ratio of men:women in the judiciary (2:1). (This confirms what I have been saying when I have spoken on this issue). The survey gives the rationale that men are more interested in a challenging career than women, and are able to deal with a more pressured life.

Judges are resigning in their 30’s, for the most part (see below), and my own analysis is that the reason women are staying in the judiciary is that (married) women at that age also have responsibilities to children and elderly parents. Women are prepared to deal with the stresses of working in the judiciary because the work is more “stable,” and does not involve marketing work after business hours.

Age and education

Over half (55%) of the judges resigning are in their 30’s. Most (70%) have been in the judiciary for at least 6 years, with practically all (91%) with at least 4 years of experience, over 99% with an undergraduate degree and 37% with a master’s degree.

Type of court and area of work

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Most judges who have resigned recently  are from the basic level (78%) and intermediate level courts (18%).

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Many (almost 80%) of the judges who had resigned were in the civil/commercial divisions, with division chiefs and deputy division chiefs accounting for 14% and 19% respectively.

Reasons for leaving:

  • benefits insufficient (66% selected this as primary reason);
  • too much pressure and too much work (60%);
  • not enough opportunity for promotion (34%);
  • professional risk and lack of professional respect (31%).

Those that have resigned are generally pessimistic about judicial reform (47%) or can’t say for certain whether it will be successful (32%). Their “judges’ dream” is to be able to try cases independently, without reporting their case up to the leadership, worrying about parties to the case petitioning because they are unhappy with the outcome, etc.

Another analyst (the editor of the Wechat account Empire Lawyers) gave three reasons for the wave of judges submitting their resignations.

  • Wechat;
  • Judicial reform;
  • Other factors (especially money).

Why Wechat?  Because it has given them a new universe of social connections outside the judiciary. It also gives them easy access to information about the life of former judges similar to themselves. Moreover, through Wechat they can create a circle of friends and connections who can provide moral support when they have made the decision to resign. According to the editor, Wechat is often a vehicle for judges preparing to resign. Some judges establish their own Wechat public accounts while still in the judiciary, publishing articles that bring much more attention from legal professionals to their expertise than their judgments ever do.

The increased stresses of judicial reform are another set of factors–the lifetime responsibility system,  case registration system, and particularly, the bright line quota on the number of judges (no more than 39%) means that promotions will come more slowly than previously and others will not even be eligible to participate in the examinations for qualifying as a judge.

Other factors?  The editor cited money, particularly judges in major cities with high costs of living.  The fact remains that middle-class life in China’s major cities, particularly for couples with a child, is expensive and judicial salaries, tied to civil service rank, are inadequate.   As the editor mentioned, some judges supplement their wages with (legal) inome from writing or lecturing. (It seems likely in the current atmosphere, fewer judges are willing to risk soliciting illegal income.)

There is also the rigidity of the Party/state cadre management system. While law firm partner classmates are posting photos of themselves at Yosemite or in the Grand Tetons on Wechat, judges must obtain permission to leave the country

Finally, this couplet is popular on legal oriented Wechat:

网上流行一个段子:

Q: Do you regret resigning from the court?

问:从法院辞职,你后悔吗?

A: Regret.

答:后悔。

Q: Why do you regret it?

问:为什么后悔?

A: I regret that I left too late.

答:后悔出来晚了。

Watch out for Mr. Yong when you read about law on Wechat

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This content cannot be read; Yong Hu (user) has complained, discovered this content violates law, regulations, and policy

Those reading about China’s social media in English have been mesmerized by articles summarizing the recently published and impressive study of the pro-government “fifty cent army” on Weibo by Professor Gary King of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitive Social Science and coauthors Professors Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts from Stanford and the University of California, San Diego.  However, according to the numbers, the focus of China’s social media has very much shifted to Wechat (Weixin).  According to statistics from April, 2016, the number of Wechat active users has grown to 650 million, while the number of Weibo active users at the same time was about 261 million.  Wang Dong, author of a popular (and prize-winning) legal Wechat public account CU检说法 (with a day job at the Suzhou Procuratorate), recently pointed out that a “Mr. Yong” poses a threat to Wechat readers.

Wang Dong posed the question “who is that guy Yong (用)?”  “Every time Yong Hu (用户) (user) complains about the content in an article, it disappears.” Wang Dong asked further:

Who is this guy “用户”? He certainly does not like to stand on a podium to debate with people, perhaps because of stuttering, but more likely because he really does not have that kind of scholarship, does not know what to say, and perhaps, after he says a few words and omits words and is ridiculed, the crowd of helpless laughter causes him to retreat back.

So, the easiest way is hiding in the shadows, lurking, lurking, lurking silently, silently recording  his hate in every move and every word of the people, to analyze these articles, from which to find  “segments of illegal content.”

Perhaps Professor King and coauthors can now turn their attention to Mr. Yong and his army of Wechat lurkers, to assist us in understanding what made Mr. Yong and his army of lurkers complain about 200,000 items on Wechat in 2015 and cause 120,000 Wechat public accounts to be penalized.

 

 

 

Accessing Chinese criminal law legal developments via Wechat (updated)

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defense counsel in a Beijing court

This brief blogpost, updated with content on the 18 April judicial interpretation on corruption offenses, supplements my earlier blogpost on legal Wechat public accounts.

Defender (辩护人), one of the leading criminal law Wechat public accounts recently published a list of the most widely read Wechat criminal law Wechat public accounts with user statistics (as of 15 April).

Given that criminal law is more sensitive that commercial law in China, posts that relate to more difficult topics sometimes disappear.

Some of the most useful posts in recent days relate to the 18 April judicial interpretation on corruption offenses.  Several posts package the judicial interpretation together with the statement by officials from the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and Procuratorate (SPP)–that statement gives important background information about the legislative history and intent of the drafters. Related posts put the interpretation into chart form, providing easy reference to all participants in the criminal justice system.  As might be expected, more sensitive analyses may disappear, such as this one An analysis  by Si Weijiang, a well known defense lawyer. A PDF version can be found here, so that readers may judge for themselves (斯伟江 • 迟来量刑标准调整:反腐高压下的调整).

Within the past week, this one was published, setting out the legal basis and jurisdiction of departments of the public security authorities to open a file (立案) and begin an investigation.  One of the departments focuses on anti terrorism (反恐怖部门), authorized to open a file for seven different crimes.

In March of this year, at the “Two Meetings,” Zhu Lieyu spoke out in favor of removing detention houses (where pre-trial suspects are held), from the jurisdiction of the public security authorities. Recent posts on some of these criminal law public accounts include one listing the titles, location, and telephone numbers of  detention houses in Zhejiang Province, and an earlier one in Defender with an open letter from 37 Yunnan lawyers drawing attention to the poor conditions in several detention houses in Kunming for defense counsel to meet with clients.

Other posts call attention to cases or categories of cases that might otherwise escape public attention, such as Chen Yichao, a Gansu company executive accused of corruption, and tried in recent days, whose assets were seized by the authorities and transferred to the personal accounts of the procuratorate and Party disciplinary officials investigating his case (in violation of relevant regulations) (and an analogous case from Anhui) as well as an article from a court website questioning the punishment of petitioners for extorting the government, and a judgment by the Jiangsu Higher People’s Court in re-trial proceedings overturning the conviction of a petitioner for extortion.  Another post that must be read is this one, about (former) officials from the justice system who have been tortured.

Another recent post lists embezzlement cases decided since Criminal Law Amendment (9) became effective, with the court, amount embezzled, and sentence.

For the many persons inside and outside of China who are trying to understand China’s anti-corruption system, these public accounts provide valuable information on what happens as cases go from Party disciplinary investigation to the procuratorate to court, and the arguments defense lawyers are making on behalf of their clients,including the exclusion of evidence obtained by torture.

 

Profiling Judge Merrick Garland on Wechat

urlI recently published a profile of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, on a Wechat public account.  The English version is linked here  (so far about 7600 page views) and the Chinese version is linked here (about 5500 page views).  Many thanks to: the holder of the public account, for inviting me to write the article and commenting insightfully on an initial draft; four of my students at the School of Transnational Law of Peking University, who translated the English article into Chinese, and several others, in China and elsewhere, who provided comments; and one of Judge Garland’s classmates, who generously shared an anecdote about him.

More on Justice Scalia and what he means to the Chinese legal profession

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Judge Jiang

Followers of this blog are likely to have seen the New York Times (Chinese version) and Wall Street Journal stories on Justice Scalia and what he means to China.  At least two additional articles are worth mentioning:

Judge He Fan published an article by a former Shanghai judge and current Fulbright Scholar on her experience paying her respects to Justice Scalia lying in state at the Supreme Court, with the following comments:

While we sigh with regret with every “model laborer” or “advanced” [worker], here [in the US] the President announced to the entire people that the late judge was one of the Supreme Court’s most important judges and thinkers, and will be remembered by history.

当我们还在为每一位“劳模”或“先进”扼腕叹息时,这里的总统向全国人民宣布逝去的法官毫无疑问是最高法院最重要的法官和思想者,将被历史所铭记

Judge Jiang Qiang of the Supreme People’s Court in his Wechat account (junnylaw) desribed how American legal controversies are relevant to Chinese judges.  His Wechat post contains an excerpt from one of Justice Scalia’s lectures, included in the book Judges On Judging. (Judge He Fan translated the book, previously discussed this blogpost.)

Judge Jiang prefaces the excerpt with the following comment:

Although we here cannot use the Constitution as the basis of a judgment, American controversies concerning Constitutional interpretation can still provide a reference to us here in principles and techniques in interpreting areas of [Chinese] law.

(虽然我们这里的宪法不能作为裁判依据,但是美国关于宪法解释的争论,仍然能为我们这里关于部门法解释的原则和技术提供参考.]

Accessing Chinese legal developments through Wechat (updated)

logoWechat, as most people with an interest in China know, has become the preferred form of social media in China.  The legal community in China has taken to it too.

Some are official accounts of government entities, including the courts and others are public accounts (公众账号) established by companies, law firms, individuals, and other organizations. Ir  Each has its benefits for the user located outside of China.

To access these public accounts, it does not matter where in the world you are located, but you need a smart phone to install the Wechat app. The accounts can be accessed through “search official accounts” or “Add contacts” and typing in either the Wechat ID or the name of the account. The accounts can also be accessed through computer or table as well, by searching for the account in question.

The official government accounts enable the user to keep current on the issues and latest government position in that area of law–new policy, new legislation, and new reforms.  The Supreme People’s Court, for example, has one, as does the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, as well as their local counterparts.

Another category is the less official public accounts.   Some are affiliated with official organizations, while others are not, while others are in a grey area. The writing tends to be aimed at the professional, with less bureaucratic language.   Some accounts are aimed at practicing lawyers, more focused on civil and commercial law than criminal law or administrative law, but both can be found. Some accounts publish writings by the account holder, while others accept articles submitted by followers.  One very popular type of article is one that reviews the law and cases in a particular area of law.

Some of the legal public accounts that I follow (or are highly recommended by those that I know) are listed below.  The list has now updated with further information provided by a 31 January article in Empire Lawyers and Lawread on the top 10 public accounts. Please use the comment function (or email me) to suggest additional accounts.

  • Arbitration:  Wechat ID: cnarb1, account of Lin Yifei, mentioned in an earlier blogpost.  I highly recommend it to both practitioners and others interested in arbitration.
  • Labor law:Wechat ID: laodongfaku (劳动法库) (with over 200,000 followers (this is mentioned in Empirelawyers top 10; Wechat ID: ldfview (子非鱼说劳动法);
  • Civil law 海坛特哥 (haitanlegal), account of Chen Te, formerly of the Beijing Higher People’s Court, now a lawyer (高衫legal) [his earlier posts focused on medical law], Wechat ID: gaoshanlegal;  审判研究, Wechat ID: spyjweixin; 法客帝国, Wechat ID: Empirelawyers; 审判研究, Wechat ID: msspck.
  • Criminal law: 辩护人 (bianhuren1993); 刑事实务, Wechat ID: xingshishiwu, with over 200,00 followers; 刑事审判参考 Wechat ID: criminailaw.
  • Judiciary: There are many, among them are: 法影斑斓 , account of He Fan, judge in the judicial reform office of the Supreme People’s Court, Wechat ID: funnylaw1978 and JunnyLaw (JunnyLaw1977) the newly established account of Jiang Qiang, a judge in the #1 Civil Division of the Supreme People’s Court, so far, articles focusing on civil law issues.
  • Civil litigation, 天同诉讼圈, Wechat ID: tiantongsusong (in the top 10), established by Tian Tong & Partners), with over 250,000 followers;
  • International law: Wechat ID: ciil 2015 国际法促进中心
  • IP law–知识产权那点事, Wechat ID: IPR888888.  The posting of 30 January, for example, includes the Supreme People’s Court judgment 11 January in its retrial of the Castel wine trademark infringement case and an article on indirect infringements of copyright on the Internet.
  • Aggregators/General–智和法律新媒体, Wechat ID: zhihedongfang; 法律博客, Wechat ID: falvboke,  法律读品, Wechat ID: lawread, 尚格法律人, wechat ID: falvren888 (followed by at least 130,000 legal professionals). 法律读库 Wechat ID: lawreaders, followed by 500,000 (in top 10); 法律讲堂, Wechat ID: yunlvshi, established by a partner with the Yingke Law Firm (also listed among the top 10).

This linked article written by Chen Te discusses how legal professionals can market themselves through a public account as well as some of the issues of having a public account.

Accessing Chinese legal developments through Wechat

logoWechat, as most people with an interest in China know, has become the preferred form of social media in China.  The legal community in China has taken to it too.  Some are official accounts of government entities, including the courts and others are public accounts (公众账号) established by companies, law firms, individuals, and other organizations.  Each has its benefits for the user located outside of China.

To access these public accounts, it does not matter where in the world you are located, but you need a smart phone to install the Wechat app. The accounts can be accessed through “search official accounts” or “Add contacts” and typing in either the Wechat ID or the name of the account. The accounts can also be accessed through computer or table as well, by searching for the account in question.

The official government accounts enable the user to keep current on the issues and latest government position in that area of law–new policy, new legislation, and new reforms.  The Supreme People’s Court, for example, has one, as does the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, as well as their local counterparts.

Another category is the less official public accounts.   Some are affiliated with official organizations, while others are not, while others are in a grey area. The writing tends to be aimed at the professional, with less bureaucratic language .   Some accounts are aimed at practicing lawyers, more focused on civil and commercial law than criminal law or administrative law, but both can be found. Some accounts publish writings by the account holder, while others accept articles submitted by followers.  One very popular type of article is one that reviews the law and cases in a particular area of law.

Some of the legal public accounts that I follow (or are highly recommended by those that I know) are listed below.  Please use the comment function (or email me) to suggest additional accounts.

  • Arbitration:  Wechat ID: cnarb1, account of Lin Yifei, mentioned in an earlier blogpost.  I highly recommend it to both practitioners and others interested in arbitration.
  • Labor law:Wechat ID: laodongfaku (劳动法库) (with over 200,000 followers; Wechat ID: ldfview (子非鱼说劳动法);
  • Civil law 海坛特哥 (haitanlegal), account of Chen Te, formerly of the Beijing Higher People’s Court, now a lawyer (高衫legal) [his earlier posts focused on medical law], Wechat ID: gaoshanlegal;  审判研究, Wechat ID: spyjweixin; 法客帝国, Wechat ID: Empirelawyers; 审判研究, Wechat ID: msspck.
  • Criminal law: 辩护人 (bianhuren1993); 刑事实务, Wechat ID: xingshishiwu; 刑事审判参考 Wechat ID: criminailaw.
  • Judiciary: There are many, among them are: 法影斑斓 , account of He Fan, judge in the judicial reform office of the Supreme People’s Court, Wechat ID: funnylaw1978 and JunnyLaw (JunnyLaw1977) the newly established account of Jiang Qiang, a judge in the #1 Civil Division of the Supreme People’s Court, so far, articles focusing on civil law issues.
  • International law: Wechat ID: ciil 2015 国际法促进中心
  • IP law–知识产权那点事, Wechat ID: IPR888888.  The posting of 30 January, for example, includes the Supreme People’s Court judgment 11 January in its retrial of the Castel wine trademark infringement case and an article on indirect infringements of copyright on the Internet.
  • Aggregators–智和法律新媒体, Wechat ID: zhihedongfang; 法律博客, Wechat ID: falvboke,  法律读品, Wechat ID: lawread

This linked article written by Chen Te discusses how legal professionals can market themselves through a public account as well as some of the issues of having a public account.