New court rules to boost lawyers' role and dignity

Updated: 2014-07-10 07:15

By Cao Yin in Jinan (China Daily)

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Courts in China are required to establish procedures that focus on judgments and improved treatment of lawyers and respect of their legitimate rights, China's top court said on Wednesday.

Every judge is required to give more respect to lawyers' defenses and opinions, ensuring that attorneys can fulfill their roles during trials when judges hand down verdicts, according to a reform plan made by the Supreme People's Court.

The plan, which has been expected since the central government announced the judicial reform in November, aims to provide a guideline for Chinese courts' routine work in the next five years and requires every court to fully guarantee lawyers' rights in both civil and criminal trials.

"We should acknowledge attorneys' contributions to Chinese judicial undertaking, and they definitely play an important role pushing forward our judicial reform," said He Xiaorong, director of the judicial reform office at the top court.

"Lawyers' rights, such as providing evidence, justification and debate, must be respected and protected during lawsuit hearings, while judges should also answer attorneys' questions in their verdicts," He said.

"The judgment must be open to the public and be put under supervision to improve judicial credibility."

Ruan Chuansheng, a criminal lawyer in Shanghai, praised the plan, saying that courts, prosecutors and the public should recognize and pay attention to the role of lawyers during a trial.

"Some judges ignored us, let alone what we say in a courtroom. They prefer to communicate with prosecutors before a court hearing rather than listen to us at trial," Ruan said.

"When I was an intern in a court 15 years ago, my judge even told me not to make friends with lawyers," he added.

Ruan said that a judgment with detailed answers to lawyers' questions can also avoid administrative intervention later on.

Another Beijing lawyer, Yu Guofu, who specializes in intellectual property disputes at Sheng Feng Law Firm, agreed with Ruan, saying his opinions were often undervalued in the past "as judges had made a verdict in accordance with previous cases or traditional solutions before I gave evidence and debated in the hearing".

However, a judge surnamed Wu in Beijing said that the respect between judges and attorneys should be mutual.

Wu said that a few judges get tired of listening to attorneys during a trial "because we are required to tackle abundant cases in a limited time to improve our efficiency, but the lawyers' opinions had no relation to disputes", he said.

On occasion, some judges might interrupt attorneys or neglect their opinions.

Since last year, in fact, the top court has invited lawyers to participate in their studies and listen to their ideas in an effort to enhance communication.