Friday, November 25, 2005
The Asian Law Institute, a consortium of Asian law faculties operating out of the National University of Singapore, will have its third conference on 25-26 May 2006 in Shanghai at the East China University of Politics and Law. The theme of the conference is "The Development of Law in Asia: Convergence versus Divergence?"
Full details available here.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate-Level People's Court recently announced that it was doing away with the system of disciplining judges on the basis of overturned decisions. Under that system, if a certain number of decisions were revised or overturned on appeal (or presumably on retrial pursuant to judicial supervision as well), the judge would receive sanctions in the form of benefit cuts or demerits. This system, commonly practiced in the Chinese courts, has been criticized by many on the grounds that (1) it leads judges to clear their decisions with superior courts beforehand, often through non-transparent means that in effect jeopardize the meaningfulness of an appeal, and (2) that it leads judges to pressure the parties unduly to accept a "mediated" settlement, from which (being theoretically voluntary) there is no appeal. Superior court judges, being only human, may also be reluctant in a close case to overturn a judgment when it will bring sanctions on the head of a fellow judge. Finally, of course, the system rests on a questionable premise: that there are no close cases, and that one "wrong" judgment is just as bad as another.
In order to avoid these perverse incentives, the No. 1 Intermediate Court has decided to replace a disciplinary system based on outcomes with a system based on process: the judge's behavior. Thus, judges are henceforth to be rewarded or disciplined based on their conduct of trials, not on whether the judgment is overturned or not.
- ChinaLawInfo report (in Chinese)
Monday, November 21, 2005
Periodically I would like to post short biographies of people in the Chinese law community (both the people in China who in a sense make Chinese law and the people outside who study it). Today's entry is He Weifang (贺卫方), a professor of law at Peking University's Faculty of Law.
The expression "to die of anger" (气死) is very common in Chinese (or maybe just among the Chinese people I know). It has now received official sanction as a cause of action in tort. The Worker's Daily (工人日报) reported in its Oct. 24, 2005 issue about a case in which a husband successfully sued a company for having caused the death of his wife in this way. In July, 2002, his wife and several other workers had confronted a senior official at the company about back wages they were owed. The official apparently said rather dismissively, "I can't do anything about it; go to the government or go to court." At this, the wife began foaming at the mouth and fell senseless to the ground.
The cause of death was ascertained to be cerebral hemorrhage triggered by the argument over wages. The husband brought suit in January, 2005. In its judgment, the court found that the company official had been too harsh in his tone (语言有些生硬) and had caused the victim's death; it found for the husband against the company.
Interestingly, nobody seems to have noticed that the statute of limitations for this action had long since run. The general limitation is two years under Art. 135 of the General Principles of Civil Law, and under Art. 136 it's one year for actions for personal injury.