Reform increases judicial efficiency
Courts have seen higher efficiency in handling a rapidly increasing number of cases in the first six months this year, thanks to ongoing judicial reforms, China's top court said on July 31.
From January to June, courts accepted more than 14.58 million cases, up 11.29 percent year-on-year, according to the Supreme People's Court, with 8.89 million cases concluded.
"The rate of case conclusions increased by 9.88 percent compared with the same period last year, although the number of judges has declined," said Li Liang, director of the top court's case management department.
After the judicial reform was forwarded by the central leadership about five years ago, ways to increase court efficiency and improve the quality of case hearings have been always highlighted, he said. Measures taken by courts have contributed to solving problems, he added.
For example, the reform limits the quota of judges, reducing the number from 210,000 to 120,000, but the average number of cases a judge concludes has been gone up to 74 annually from 52 in 2008, according to the court.
Under the reform, judicial professionals have been divided into three areas: judge, judicial assistant and court clerk, it said, comprising teams to deal with cases.
"What the judges do is to focus on handling disputes, while the remaining officers, such as judicial assistants, are responsible for helping prepare case materials and collecting evidence," he said. "In this way, judges can be freed of trivial matters. They can pay more attention to resolving legal conflicts."
Li said judges are the core of the team, with scientific personnel placement the major reason for improved court efficiency.
Courts also have been ordered to streamline the handling of cases under the reform. "We've used more legal resources to solve more difficult disputes and reduced some administrative procedures," he said.
In the past, judges had to submit major verdicts to chief judges and then presidents in a court before the verdicts were declared, "but now they've been asked to omit that process and become responsible for their judgments," Li said.
In addition, the reform requires courts to use information technologies to accelerate the filing and tracking of cases and verdict delivery.
Han Wei, a judicial official in the case management department, said communication among courts had become easier since 3,520 courts connected to an internal court network. Litigants also have access to a network with information on which they can base lawsuits and keep up with hearings.
But the officials confirmed that the number of unconcluded cases is not small, suggesting courts take time to study how hearings are conducted and how the system could be made more efficient.