Opinion of the Supreme People’s Court on Improving and Perfecting the Working Mechanism of the Judicial Committee of the People’s Court (Mainland China)

Jolene Chen

On August 2, 2019, the Supreme People’s Court issued the Opinion on Improving and Perfecting the Working Mechanism of the Judicial Committee of the People’s Court (the “Opinion”) regarding how the working mechanism of judicial committee may be improved, including its fundamental principles, organizational structure, role positioning, operational system, and safeguards and supervision.  The Opinion came into effect on August 2019.  This essay briefly introduces the Opinion from the following three aspects:

The Opinion stipulate the composition of a judicial committee and require the committee at people’s courts at all levels to have a president, vice president and a number of senior judges, with an odd the number of members.  The judicial committee meetings are divided into plenary meetings and professional committee meetings.  The professional committee meetings constitute a form of judicial committee meetings and its working approach, with more than one half of all members of the judicial committee being on the professional committee.

Secondly, the Opinion defines the main functions of the judicial committee and lists the type of cases that should be submitted to the judicial committee for discussion and deliberation: (1) sensitive cases involving national security, diplomacy, social stability, as well as major, difficult, and complicated cases; (2) cases involving decisions, adjudications or mediations rendered by the court that have become legally effective but have since been confirmed as erroneous and should be retried; (3) criminal cases in which the people’s procuratorate at the same level filed an appeal in accordance with trial supervision procedures; (4) new types of cases where the application of law is unclear; (5) cases in which the defendant is to be acquitted; (6) cases in which a criminal penalty below the statutory punishment or no criminal punishment is intended; or (7) cases in which a higher people’s court or an intermediate people’s court intends to impose a death sentence.

In addition, the Opinion stipulate the operating and voting mechanisms of the judicial committee and its effectiveness.  For example, plenary meetings and professional committee meetings shall be attended by the majority of its members.  When discussing and deliberating cases and matters, the judicial committee shall generally proceed according to the following procedures: (1) the panel and the individual in charge of a particular matter shall deliver a report; (2) the members ask questions about the relevant issues; (3) the members express their opinions in descending order according to their rank and seniority, and the moderator provides concluding opinions; (4) the moderator concludes the meeting with resolutions adopted during the meeting.  Cases or matters discussed during a plenary meeting and the professional committee meeting are generally decided based on the majority opinion with the minority’s opinion noted in the records.  The decision of the judicial committee shall then be carried out by the panel, the sole judge or the relevant departments.  The judicial committee’s decision on cases that it has discussed and its reasoning shall be disclosed in the adjudication documents, except when the law prohibits the disclosure.