Lawyer Discipline in an Authoritarian Regime: Empirical Insights from Zhejiang Province, China
Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2017
Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 458
35 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2017 Last revised: 17 Jan 2023
Date Written: June 22, 2017
On paper, the state-run lawyer disciplinary system in China serves multiple interests: client protection, maintaining the reputation of the legal profession, upholding the rule of law, and safeguarding the party-state authority. This Article assesses which of these interests dominates in the lawyer disciplinary process by analyzing 122 published lawyer discipline cases from Zhejiang Province from 2007–2015. These records of lawyer discipline evidence an authoritarian political logic of attorney discipline, with punishment most clearly serving to safeguard the Communist Party’s rule by keeping lawyers in bounds and tightly tied to their law firms. Subordinate to this are other state interests such as upholding the legal system and rule of law, as well as private interests of protecting firm income. Client protection is a secondary interest at best, with only a handful of cases having clear client-protection goals. The dominance of party-state interests reflects not only the socialist legacy, but also the persistence of an authoritarian legality in contemporary China.
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