A pioneer court for cross-regional cases
The first cross-regional court in China, the Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People’s Court, celebrated its first anniversary in late 2015. With the guidance of the central government, the Supreme People’s Court, the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and the Shanghai Higher People’s Court, it has made much headway in establishing the operations of a cross-regional court and laid a foundation for further development.
Increase of administrative cases, no administrative intervention in trial proceedings
In 2015, the Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People’s Court handled 1,370 cases, of which 1,163 have been concluded. Last year, 242 of a total of 610 administrative disputes, or about 39 percent, named a Shanghai government body as the defendant, 18 times more than the previous year.
Wu Xielin, president of the court in Shanghai, attributed the surging number of cases to the case-filing system, which protects people’s rights to sue administrative organs and makes such suits much easier to file than previously.
He explained that in the past the residents of a district or county could take only the district or county governments to court in an administrative reconsideration petition if their municipal government had supported the district or county governments’ behavior, but now they can name the municipal government as a co-defendant as well.
The goal is to remove interference by the regional governments during trials, helping to ensure that judges can develop their verdicts independently, Wu added.
“I have not received any ‘order' from a government department over the past year whose intent was to use administrative power to ‘guide' a judgment,” Wu said.
Qu Furong, vice-president of the court, said that any behavior that might influence a verdict before trial would be recorded and that the violator would be informed of the related regulations and legal consequences.
Cases are distributed to judges at random to reduce artificial interference and ensure fairness and justice in trials. In addition, trials have been broadcast live via multimedia approaches.
“The court has effectively used clearly stipulated rules to combat latent violations,” said Tang Xiaotian, a law professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
Tang said that as a guest supervisor he has access to every case and can visit any court room and office.
Clear explanation of regulations involving interference and no further appeal after trials of second instance
“Every judge on our court is ordered to inform the two parties－especially the government department that is involved－not to engage in any behavior that might influence a verdict before trial,” Wu Xielin said.
“If we find such banned activity, such as leaving a message with the court that's intended to affect a hearing, we'll record it and identify it as interference.”
He said the court has normalized the practice and is actively applying it in more cases. According to Qu Furong, the explanation covers a wide range of aspects of a proceeding, including service and guidance before trial, detailed interpretations of laws and regulations, and reasons for judgment for those who know little about the litigation process or do not quite understand the court’s decision.
The judges’ explanation will help clear up all doubts of the parties concerned, reduce the number of petition letters and visits involving litigation, and maintain social stability.
Last year, Shanghai No 3 Intermediate People’s Court concluded 97.56 percent of the cases within the set completion time limit and with no further appeal after trials of second instance.
Special cases have been handled in the cross-regional court and an administration system have been basically formed
The court has been working to promote a system in which ordinary cases are handled in its administrative region and special ones are handled in the cross-regional court. It considers three factors – whether the case is “cross-regional”, “liable to be subject to interference by the local administrative power” and “important”–when determining where it should be heard.
The court has put forward a research-based proposal on administrating cases, which not only considers the comprehensiveness of administrative, criminal and commercial cases, but also reflects the distinctiveness of cross-regional cases.
The court this year will explore how to tackle commercial and civil disputes across administrative regions, as well as take on a group of criminal cases involving food and drug safety, intellectual property, and the environment and transportation, Qu said.