Retaining Judicial Professionalism: The New Case Guiding Mechanism of the Supreme People's Court
The China Quarterly, Vol. 217, p. 121–139, 2014
22 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2014
In 2011 and 2012 the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) published its first “guiding cases”. Guiding cases serve as decision-making models that must be taken into account by lower courts when deciding similar cases. This study argues that the establishment of such a national formal legal mechanism to improve consistency in adjudication across jurisdictions and geographical boundaries will strengthen judicial professionalism. The case guiding mechanism provides the SPC with an instrument to discreetly steer adjudication in lower courts, thereby allowing it to exercise significant influence in legal development. Given the complexity of cases, compared to law set out in statute, non-lawyers may have tremendous difficulty in understanding and assessing the effects of guiding cases, which in turn acts as a protective mechanism against extra-legal interference. The reform is an example of difficult maneuvering of the Court to retain judicial professionalism in a hostile yet politically conservative environment. It reflects an attempt of the SPC to strengthen its position vis-à-vis other actors of the party-state and to consolidate the judiciary’s function as an adjudicative institution that works on the basis of formal legal mechanisms.
Keywords: Supreme People's Court, Judges, Adjudication, Professionalism, Guiding Cases, Judicial Reform
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