Stanford Law School this week published its latest issue of Guiding Case Analytics entitled “China’s Guiding Cases System: Review and Recommendations.”
Guiding Cases System
As a civil law jurisdiction, China does not recognize the stare decisis doctrine, because doing so would violate the principle that only the legislature may make law. Case law may be cited in litigation, but still serves a relatively minor role in supplementing statutes and SPC InterpretationsAfter a statute is published or updated, the Supreme People’s Court of China will review subsequent case law and issue an official Interpretation clarifying identified ambiguities or inconsistencies in the language or principles of the statute. for the ~200,000 jurists tasked with administering China’s legal system.
In an attempt to unify legal standards, improve judicial efficiency, and limit judicial discretion, the Supreme People’s Court of China (SPC) starting in 2010 has converted sixty four (64) judicial opinions into Guiding Cases (GCs) intended to be de facto binding decisions for courts at all levels. According to Article 9 of the Detailed Implementing Rules on the Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court Concerning Work on Case Guidance, “Where a case being adjudicated is, in terms of the basic facts and application of law, similar to a Guiding Case released by the Supreme People’s Court, the [deciding] people’s court at any level should refer to the Main Points of the Adjudication of that relevant Guiding Case to render its ruling or judgment.”
GCs are officially named “案例指导制度” (Ànlì zhǐdǎo zhìdù), which literally translates as “case guidance system,” and cover a wide variety of legal issues ranging from land-use rights to software copyright infringement.
Stanford analytics findings
Key findings from the analytics report indicate the SPC is succeeding in its goal of summarizing adjudication experiences. Specifically, the report found that GCs:
- “are of different types (12 criminal cases, 11 administrative cases, ten IP and unfair competition cases, and 31 other—though mostly commercial—cases);”
- “are based on original judgments from the SPC itself or lower-level courts located in 15 different provinces/provincial-level municipalities, covering nearly half of the 31 administrative divisions of the country; and”
- “address issues arising from 31 different pieces of Chinese legislation and two international conventions that are applicable in China”.
That said, the report also indicates several shortcomings in the GCs to-date:
- Many provinces in China have few or no GCs. Not surprisingly, the current geographical distribution of GCs is heavily skewed toward more developed areas.
- Published versions of GCs do not always include original judgments or rulings for those GCs. Such original judgments and rulings would add value as supplementary materials for legal practitioners and judges to reference in determining whether the basic facts and application of law are similar between GCs and pending cases.
- At present there is no official mechanism to revise GCs to enhance their value in guiding subsequent adjudication.
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|1.||↲||After a statute is published or updated, the Supreme People’s Court of China will review subsequent case law and issue an official Interpretation clarifying identified ambiguities or inconsistencies in the language or principles of the statute.|