Judges quitting in droves over ‘awful life’ INFO BOX
Work pressure, interference from local governments and a lack of career opportunities are pushing many judges to quit, particularly younger ones, court insiders said.
An intermediate court in Beijing reported three new vacancies in September, while the People’s Court Daily reported almost 10 had left posts at low-level courts since 2012.
In Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, eight judges have quit since 2008, most citing fatigue, the paper reported.
Over the same period, 56 judges have left courts across Henan province, according to the province’s high people’s court. Forty were younger than 50 and the chief reasons cited for leaving were the huge workload and poor treatment.
A judge in his late 30s at one of the capital’s rural courts said there is discontent among his profession.
“I’m considering quitting, too,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
Like most civil service positions, being a judge is seen as a secure job in China. However, after six years of trials, verdicts and working every weekend, he conceded he “can no longer stand such an awful life”.
He said at least 10 colleagues in his court have quit in recent years.
The Chinese mainland has 196,000 judges, according to China News Service, which quoted the Supreme People’s Court.
An insider at the top court said authorities were aware of the high turnover of judges and that it had caused concern.
Zhang Liyong, presiding judge at Henan High People’s Court, said in the province 850 judges each handle more than 200 cases a year, with some dealing with more than 600.
“In other words, most are overworked,” he said. This means they have little time to study and update legal knowledge, “which affects quality”.
The rural court judge in Beijing said he handles about 250 cases a year.
“I have no time to think about quality,” he said. “I had great passion at the start, hoping to make sure every case was fair and just, but the reality was beyond my imagination.
“I need to climb higher if I want better treatment” but there is a lack of opportunities for promotion, he said, referring to the fact a judge’s salary is attached to his or her administrative ranking.
He said he is paid about 5,000 yuan ($816) a month, “far from enough to afford a house in Beijing,” he said.
In 2005, Hu Zhongyi swapped his job as a judge in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region after 15 years to To become a judge, a candidate must meet a list of strict requirements: • He or she must be a Chinese citizen and, in the vast majority of cases, a university graduate. • They must pass the national judicial examination, which is difficult even for law students. It is usually held in November. become a private lawyer in Beijing.
“The types of cases I was dealing with were a bit boring,” he said.
“Sometimes my judgments were affected by the local government, especially in administrative cases,” he added. “I wasn’t good at keeping relations with officials and didn’t want to earn a promotion this way, so I decided to quit.”
The Supreme People’s Court said it has put a reform plan on its work agenda and will release something concrete next year.
The plan is expected to separate the judiciary from administration, which was identified as a key task at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Reforms will also reinforce efforts to prevent local governments from influencing court verdicts, financing and management, said Sun Jungong, • Hopefuls then need to pass the highly competitive national civil service examination, also held every November. Most judicial officials in China are classed as civil servants. Last year, nearly 1.5 million people applied for about 19,000 vacancies through this exam. Prior to the exam, people can apply for court positions via a recruitment administration a spokesman for the Supreme People’s Court.
As a pilot project, judges at a Futian district court in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, have already been given sole responsibility for verdicts and sentencing, as opposed to the current system, which requires decisions to be rubber-stamped by a higher administrative authority.
“This is a better way to eliminate interference and improve judicial efficiency,” said judge Zhang in Henan, who said the approach will be rolled out in his province.
Chen Ruihua, a Peking University law professor, suggested more judicial bodies should follow suit and said: “In the long run, we must uphold and ensure judges give independent verdicts.” Much simpler in US
The number of cases a lowlevel court judge in the United States handles in a year is also heavy, according to Yang Weidong, website, although they are limited to only one post per department. • People who pass the exam then have to go through a round of interviews. • Successful candidates will first work as clerks and then assistants to senior judges, before eventually being promoted to judge. a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
Yang, who visited California last year, said a judge in a state court presides over more than 400 cases.
“However, most of the cases are not complex — traffic disputes, for example — and they can be closed very quickly,” he said.
He cited a hearing he observed in which one party had lost several paintings when they moved.
“The hearing took less than 40 minutes,” Yang said, adding a judge can deal with more than 10 cases a day.
“That number would be unbelievable in China, where no matter how hard a case is, it will last a long time due to complicated legal procedures.”
In addition, a US judge has many assistants, “which is a good way for new starters to learn quickly, boost efficiency and reduce pressure on a judge,” Yang added.