Judges quit­ting in droves over ‘aw­ful life’ INFO BOX

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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