On 27th Nov. 2019, China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) released its first batch of special research results on "Similar Case Retrieval and Adjudication Rules of Chinese Courts"(中国法院类案检索与裁判规则).
The SPC is promoting "similar judgments for similar cases", so as to unify the adjudication rules of courts nationwide. This research project is implemented by China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence (CIAJ), an institution affiliated to the SPC, and is a part of the SPC’s efforts to achieve the goal of "similar judgments for similar cases"（类案同判）.
I. The project results
The project results are presented in a series of books. The first batch of them consists of seven books, each of which involves one type of cases. The SPC will keep releasing the follow-up project results.
The first batch of results are as follows:
(1) Adjudication Rules for Internet Dispute Cases (I)
(2) Adjudication Rules for Intellectual Property Cases (I)
(3) Adjudication Rules for Guarantee Dispute Cases (I)
(4) Adjudication Rules for Insurance Disputes (I)
(5) Adjudication Rules for Construction Contract Disputes (I)
(6) Adjudication Rules for Industrial and Commercial Registration Cases (I)
(7) Adjudication Rules for Criminal Cases in the Financial Field
At the release conference, the SPC also demonstrated the retrieval system for similar cases designed by CIAJ, i.e. "China Applied Jurisprudence Digital Service System" (中国应用法学数字化服务系统).
I’m a postdoctoral fellow at CIAJ, and therefore participate in the project. At present, I’m participating in preparing one of the second batch of results, i.e. Adjudication Rules for Contract Disputes over the Carriage of Goods by Sea (I) (to be published in early 2020).
The People’s Court Newspaper (人民法院报) affiliated to the SPC published an article by me on the front page of Nov. 28th, introducing the release conference of the first batch of results. I will keep introducing the project on China Justice Observer.
II. The birth of the project
In recent years, Justice Zhou Qiang (周强) , President of the SPC, has repeatedly stressed on different occasions that "judges should enhance the adjudication capability in ‘similar judgments for similar cases’ and ‘standardization of sentencing’", and has proposed that all judges should retrieve similar cases for reference in case trial.
On 27th Feb. 2019, the SPC released its latest judicial reform plan, i.e. the Fifth Five-year Reform Outline, which proposes that it is necessary to "improve the mechanism of compulsory retrieval reporting for similar cases and new types of cases."
In fact, with the support of the SPC, as early as Aug. 2018, CIAJ has carried out a special research on "Similar Case Retrieval and Adjudication Rules of Chinese Courts", and has been cooperating with IT suppliers to develop case retrieval system.
III. The development of the project
1. Research team establishment: the SPC appoints the chief expert from the judges, scholars and industry leaders, who will then establish the research team.
2. Big data analysis: the research team uses the big data retrieval platform “ALPHA” to generate big data reports of similar cases.
3. Content developing: the research team selects quality cases that are available for indexing from the vast number of retrieved cases to provide reference for the court; the chief expert extracts the adjudication rules from similar cases and prepares the summary of the adjudication rules.
4. Similar cases and adjudication rules application: CIAJ will provide its research results to the court, and then the trial division of the court will designate dedicated personnel to do the retrieval work during the case trial, rather than leaving the work to the judge, so as to ensure the objectivity and neutrality of the retrieval results.
IV. The presentation of the project results
The above-mentioned seven books all adopt the same style and structure, that is, each book contains 20 adjudication rules (except for the Adjudication Rules for Construction Contract Disputes (I)), and each adjudication rule includes three parts: rule name, rule description and body text.
The rule description is a brief explanation of the specific rules.
The body text is composed of four parts: big data report of similar cases retrieval, case index for reference, a summary of adjudication rules and supplementary information, as follows:
1. Big data report of similar cases retrieval: this includes the retrieval time, database, case quantity, keywords and big data chart. There are 3-4 big data charts, showing the different judgments of similar cases and the proportion of each, and the quantity distribution in time, region, cause of action and industry.
2. Case index for reference: three cases are selected for each rule; cases are those in final instance made by courts at different levels, and are arranged in the descending order from the SPC to the primary people’s court.
3. Summary of adjudication rules: the specific interpretation, with detailed legal bases supporting the rationality of the rules, as well as the whole demonstration process.
4. Supplementary information: the legal provisions which are most frequently referred to in judgments.
V. The value of the project results
At the release conference, the SPC makes it clear that the project results are intended to provide references for judges’ case trial, though the adjudication rules summarized in the book shall not be applied compulsorily.
Case law is not applied in China, which means that the precedent is not legally binding, be it a similar case or an SPC’s guiding case or a bulletin case. Therefore, the judges will only use these adjudication rules for reference.
Nevertheless, these adjudication rules can help judges gain a deeper insight into the legal provisions, so as to reduce differences in the application of law, which can also improve the efficiency of legal research by judges, lawyers and parties. In the long run, the project is conducive to reducing the cost of pursuing fairness and justice.
Cover Photo by Alexandre Chambon(https://unsplash.com/@goodspleen) on Unsplash
Contributors: Liu Qiang 刘强