China’s Judiciary Has Had Enough- Would Prefer To Howl At The Moon & Get Drunk With Friends!

This is a fascinating report in the Wall St Journal. A healthy percentage of China’s judiciary are voting with their feet and quitting the job due to too much red tape and endless government interference

Here’s the report…

When a senior judge in south China quit his job this month, he explained his reasons in a resignation letter he posted online.

“I don’t know when I started to feel less and less able to handle cases,” the 20-year court veteran, Liu Shibi, wrote on a Chinese social-media site.

“So much time wasted on political study, the transmission of new attitudes, reflecting on important speeches, evaluating statistics and the rest,” he said. “Why not waste it on other useless things: daydreaming in the spring sun, howling at the moon, getting drunk with friends in a field of flowers?”

Mr. Liu’s willingness to speak out makes him unusual among his judicial peers in China, but his quitting doesn’t, reports WSJ’s Josh Chin:

Judges are leaving in droves, fed up by heavy caseloads, low professional standards, bad pay and government interference, according to former judges, legal scholars and state media reports.

Dealing with the disillusionment in the judiciary is one challenge for President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders going into a policy meeting that opened Monday in Beijing. Top on their agenda, they have said, is promoting the rule of law.

In March, an official Chinese newspaper reported that an average of 67 judges had resigned annually from Shanghai courts since 2009.

While the number of judges in China has barely budged since 2007, the number of cases handled by the courts has grown by almost 50%, according to the Supreme People’s Court.

Chinese judges typically come to the bench shortly after completing law school and clerking for a couple of years, according to the article. The pay for young judges is typically in the range of 50,000 to 70,000 yuan ($8,100 to $11,430) a year, former judges say.

Party leaders are expected to endorse a pilot program, already under way in Shanghai, that raises the salaries of judges and gives them more power over trials and decisions. But former court officials say they don’t expect a Western-style legal system to emerge from this week’s meeting:

One issue judges and legal scholars fear will not be addressed is the requirement for judges to consider “social stability” when deciding even minor cases.

“You have to satisfy the party, satisfy society, satisfy the people, satisfy the defendant and the plaintiff. It’s incredibly hard to pull off,” said Jiang Yangbing, [who resigned in June after eight years as a judge in Guangdong.]

Pervasive interference also contributes to widespread public skepticism about the courts, said Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University and one of the first foreign lawyers to practice in China.

“Courts are the weakest branch of government in China,” Mr. Cohen told WSJ. Court officials, he said, “are suspected, quite rightly, of behaving like other government officials, rather than being a separate group of holier-than-thou people who are insulated from all the usual influences.”