Black Hole of Responsibility: The Adjudication Committee’s Role in the Chinese Court
Law & Society Review, 2011
47 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 11, 2012
How courts and judges in authoritarian regimes decide cases behind closed doors has rarely been studied, but it is critically important in comparative judicial studies. Primarily drawing on the minutes of the adjudication committee in a Chinese court, this article explores its operational patterns and decision-making process. The data suggest that among the criminal cases reviewed by the committee, very few were difficult or significant, but a relatively high percentage of the suggested opinions of the adjudicating judges was modified. In contrast, many civil cases reviewed were difficult to resolve but the committee offered little assistance. Overall the operation and decision-making of the committee were subsumed by the administrative ranking system inside the court and the authority of the court president was enormous. The analysis also demonstrates the limited role of the committee in both promoting legal consistency and resisting external influences. Instead of achieving its declared goals, the committee has degenerated into a device for both individual judges and committee members to shelter responsibility. The findings compel researchers to reevaluate the role of the adjudication committee in Chinese courts, and the relationship between judges and authoritarian regimes.
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