In July 2013, the “China Judgments Online” (http://wenshu.court.gov.cn/) developed by the China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) officially went online. According to the SPC’s provisions, the judgment documents made by all the Chinese courts should be published on this website. “China Judgments Online” (http://wenshu.court.gov.cn/), “China Trials Online”(http://tingshen.court.gov.cn/, and also see You can Watch Trials in Chinese Courts on the Internet Now), “China Judicial Process Information Online” (https://splcgk.court.gov.cn/gzfwww/), and “China Enforcement Information Online” (http://shixin.court.gov.cn/) are the four major open justice platforms launched by the SPC in recent years.
As of the end of February 2018, the judgments published on the website had reached 42.783 million copies, with 13.34 billion visits and users in more than 210 countries and regions. At present, the website has become the world's largest database of court judgments.
Once logging into the “China Judgments Online” (http://wenshu.court.gov.cn/), anyone can read almost all the judgment documents rendered by Chinese courts since 2013, including judgments, rulings, writs and notices.
You can search for judgment documents by various criteria, such as case name, case number, case type, court name, judge's name, party name, lawyer's name, etc.
The SPC believes that this website will eventually increase public trust in Chinese courts and judges. In August 2016, Zhou Qiang (President of the SPC) stated that the Chinese courts had made judgment documents public online, in order to “expose the judicial activities of the court to the sun”. Specifically, on the one hand, the website gives the public a chance to review the judgments delivered by judges, thereby forcing judges to upgrade their capabilities, regulate their discretion, and reduce potential backdoor dealings On the other hand, the website allows the public to understand the judge's fact-findings, the application of the law, and the reasoning process of the court’s decision, thus eliminating the gap between the public and the court.
The SPC also takes privacy protection into consideration when making public judgment documents. According to the “Provisions of the Supreme People's Court on the People's Court's Publication of Judgment Documents online” (最高人民法院关于人民法院在互联网公布裁判文书的规定), the online publication of judgment documents should be based on the principle of openness, with non-publicity as an exception. Judicial documents involving national security, juvenile delinquency, divorce proceedings, support or guardianship of minor children, etc., shall not be made public. In public judgment documents, information concerning personal privacy, trade secrets, etc., other than the names of the parties, shall also be deleted from the document.
At present, the use of judgment documents has been greatly expanded:
- Peer learning among judges through judgment documents of similar cases
The SPC, some local courts, and several technology companies are developing multiple smart systems to help judges adjudicate cases. These systems can provide judges with similar cases and opinions in the case, which can be a reference in the process of making judgment.
- Lawyers can improve their litigation skills by studying judgment documents
Wusong and other Internet companies can help lawyers analyze the inclinations of different courts and different judges, so that lawyers can formulate appropriate litigation strategies.
- Potential customers can use the “China Judgments Online” to find lawyers
Potential customers can search for the success rate of a lawyer in various courts and various types of cases in the “China Judgments Online”, to determine whether the lawyer should be hired.
- Governments and enterprises can summarize the situation and forecast trends through the statistical distribution of disputes among regions, industries, and groups.
Huifa and other Internet companies can, based on the disclosed company name in a judgment, provide for financial institutions the litigation status of the company, as well as the analysis of the company’s legal risks and credit registration.
Some local governments use the data analysis of the judgment documents to predict the trends and probabilities of certain disputes occurring during certain periods or in certain regions, so as to take necessary countermeasures.
In order to further strengthen the big data research on the judgments documents, the SPC has established the “Judicial Case Academy of the Supreme People’s Court” , and has set up the “People’s Courts Justice Big Data Research Base” in cooperation with Southeast University in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. The SPC hopes that the judgment documents will provide more support for the Chinese judiciary and society.
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Contributors: Guodong Du 杜国栋 , Meng Yu 余萌