On January 15, 2020, the Supreme People’s Court formulated the Pilot Program for the Separation of Simple and Complex Civil Procedure Cases to promote the separation of simple and complex cases, the prioritization of cases, protection of the people’s litigation rights, effectively reduction of litigation costs, meet the needs of the people for diversity, efficient and convenient dispute resolution, further optimize the allocation of judicial resources, comprehensively promote judicial justice, and improve procedural efficiency.
1. Clarifying the reform objectives and basic principles
The objectives of this program are to comprehensively improve the quality, efficiency and credibility of the judiciary; to cause the people to be able to feel a sense of fairness and justice in every judicial case is stipulated as a fundamental goal, promote the improved rules of civil procedure, optimize the allocation of judicial resources, continued stimulate the vitality of the system; comprehensively improve judicial efficiency; promote the optimization of the rule of law in commerce; promote the modernization of the judicial system and judicial capacity; and address the needs for the modernization of the governance system and governance capability of the state.
This reform is mainly based on the following principles:
(1) Adhere to the correct political direction and effectively improving the ability of the people’s courts to resolve disputes and provide for the country’s long-term law and order, social stability, and enable the people to live in peace and contentment.
(2) Adhere to a people-centric approach. Broaden the channels of dispute resolution, improve and perfect dispute resolution methods, respect the right of the parties to select the applicable procedure, apply different procedures according to the type and complexity of the case, appropriate judicial resources should be allocated to resolve disputes with excellence, efficiency and low cost, and efforts should be made to bring the judiciary closer to the people, make lawsuits and reforms more convenient and beneficial to the people, thereby raising their sense of gain.
(3) Insistence on orderly progression. Where adjustment and application of current laws and regulations are involved, legislative bodies will make the authorization designation for the agencies to implement. For experimental methods that have been proven to be feasible in practice, they should be timely packaged, refined and promoted to a universally applicable legal system. In addition, benign interaction and organic combination of top-level design and grass-roots exploration should be promoted to realize the integration, synergy and efficiency of the reform system.
(4) Emphasis on improving the technological drivers. Full utilization of big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence to resolve reform issues and improve judicial capabilities, as well as promote the in-depth application voice recognition, remote video, intelligent assistance, and electronic archives.
2. Stipulating the main contents of the reform
(1) Optimize judicial confirmation procedures. It is necessary to improve the special invite mediation system, strengthen the management of the special invite mediation roster, improve the connection between pre-action mediation and judicial confirmation procedures, reasonably broaden the applicable scope of judicial confirmation procedures, and improve the jurisdiction rules for judicial confirmation cases with the relevant intermediate people’s courts and specialized courts to take on cases which meet the rules on jurisdiction level and exclusivity.
(2) Improve small claims procedures. Increase the application of small claims procedures and appropriately raise the threshold amount for the subject matter, as well as clearly stipulate the scope of cases to which small claims procedures apply. In addition, the trial procedure and adjudication documents should be further streamlined and the time limit for rendering a small claims decision reasonably determined. This will establish a system for converting small claims procedures from and to simplified procedures and ordinary procedures.
(3) Improve the rules for the simplified procedure. The simplified procedure may be used in simple civil cases where service by publication is required, the trial procedure and adjudication documents will also be streamlined and the relevant time limit for rendering a decision improved.
(4) Expand the scope of the single-judge adjudication system. The specific circumstances in which the single-judge adjudication system may be applied in ordinary first instance and to second instance civil cases are detailed, and an appropriate conversion and application mechanism between the single-judge adjudication system and the collegiate system is established.
(5) Improve electronic litigation rules. The legal effect of completing a litigation action online via the people’s court’s information platform is clearly stated, and if the parties agree, hearings for cases under simplified or ordinary procedures may be conducted online.
3. Stipulation on the scope and term of the pilot
The scope of the pilot includes: the intermediate people’s courts and lower level people’s courts in Beijing and Shanghai; the intermediate people’s courts in Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Hefei, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Jinan, Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Guiyang, Kunming, Xi’an and Yinchuan as well as the lower level courts under their jurisdiction; the intellectual property courts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou; the Shanghai Financial Court; and the internet courts in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. The term of the pilot is two years beginning on the day the pilot implementation measures are circulated.