Government and Policy

Stamping out corruption among judges

By Zhang Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-09 07:55
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BEIJING - China's top court is set to bring in three new regulations aimed at ensuring judges are not swayed by family ties or other types of relationships when making legal decisions.

The move is the latest salvo in its attempts to deal with judicial corruption and began last year with the Supreme People's Court (SPC) starting to draft the three regulations.

The first regulation refers to avoiding possible conflicts of interest among judges, technically called recusal, because of the involvement in cases of family members who are lawyers.

The second tackles the pleading or interceding of the relatives of judges, their friends or other people.

And the third targets lax management and poor working practices on the part of some local courts and urges court staff members, especially judicial police officers, to perform their duties in accordance with the law.

The SPC said it has undertaken both open and secret investigations in some local courts to counter such activities. It added that the drafting of the three provisions is almost complete and that they will become active during the first half of the year.

The move follows a proposal during the 2010 session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from the Jiu San Society, a political party, that calls for the "deepening of the reform of the judicial system and prevention of judicial corruption". The committee then put forward six suggestions to target judicial corruption.

The Jiu San Society said judicial corruption largely comes as a result of offers of power and money, the abuse of judicial discretion, the involvement of senior officials and money in cases, and during cases that involve Mafia-like organizations.

"Favors and relationships are the main reasons," said Hong Daode, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

"We can safely say that paying close attention to interference from relationships is the key to preventing judicial corruption."

Qian Jun, a Beijing-based lawyer, said the impact of the new rules may be felt more strongly in some communities than others.

"The new regulations, I think, will be more useful in smaller cities than in big ones," Qian said. "In small towns, with smaller populations, it is easier to have judicial collusions."

However, Qian said the regulations are not as necessary in metropolises where there is less potential for such conflicts of interest involving judges.

"Therefore, the regulations might still need further refinement," he said, noting that different rules could be applied in different judicial situations.

According to Hong, implementing regulations already on the books is also important.

"In addition, punishments for judges who are found to be responsible in such cases should be more severe, or else we will not be able to root out this thorny problem," he said.

The SPC has not yet determined what punishments will be available for judges found breaking the new regulations.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 02/09/2011 page3)