Heavy court workload
Channels should be explored to help deal with the soaring number of lawsuits and ease the burden on courts, says an article in the Beijing News. An excerpt follows:
By April 20, the People's Court of Beijing's Chaoyang District had accepted 21,747 cases and was not the only court having trouble dealing with its case load. The steep rise in the number of lawsuits in recent years is pressuring courts around the country.
The cases heard by all Beijing's courts numbered 70,000 in 1993. Last year the number hit more than 300,000. In these 11 years, only 99 new judges joined the courts.
An inadequate supply of talent and resources has bottlenecked the development of judicial institutions.
As the country transforms from a planned economy to a market-orientated one, the courts play an increasingly important role in settling conflicts between different groups and individuals.
Although the State has taken steps to help the judiciary adapt to the increasing number of lawsuits, its development is running in parallel with demand.
Therefore, a wise and realistic option is to establish a conflict resolution network through multiple channels.
First of all, current court procedures should be reformed. Under the precondition of guaranteeing justice, simple criminal cases with adequate proof should be handled with summary procedures.
In civil cases, a special department should be established to hear cases involving small sums of money quickly, a common practice in many other countries.
Measures should also be taken to improve the credibility and transparency of administrative mediation and appeals, offering a new channel for settlement that does not involve lawsuits.
Many other resources could also be mobilized to this end, like mediation and arbitration from industry associations, labour unions or consumer associations.
Therefore, the workload of the courts could be eased and they would better perform their duties.
(China Daily 05/06/2005 page4)
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