Lay Judges in China Under the New People's Assessors Law: The Shaping of a Legal Institution
25 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2020
In April 2018, China enacted a new law on the participation of citizens in court proceedings. The law is related to attempts that have been ongoing since 2015 to reform the institution of lay judges. The introduction of non-professional judges in China, referred to as people’s assessors, is intended to create greater transparency and thereby combat corruption and improve the quality of the decisionmaking process. Additional objectives include educating citizens about the law and creating greater trust in the judiciary and the legal system. With the aim of achieving these goals, the law for the first time prescribes in detail the qualifications required of people’s assessors and establishes an appointment process aiming to ensure that these lay judges better reflect the overall population. Another important element of the new law concerns the composition of judicial panels, which in the future will consist of either three or seven members. As to the larger panels (composed of seven members), the law provides that lay judges have an actual vote in determining factual questions but that they are limited to expressing their opinions on legal questions. By differentiating the role of lay judges based on the size of the panel, the question of whether a particular case is to be heard by a small or large panel takes on considerably greater significance. The criteria used in making this determination, however, remain uncertain in several respects.
Note: This article is published in the Max Planck Private Law Research Paper Series with the permission of the rights owner, Tsinghua China Law Review.
Keywords: People's Republic of China, court system, lay judges, people’s assessors, transparency, decision-making process, socialist legal system, People’s Assessors Law
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