Judge refuses to court attention

By Cao Yin (China Daily)      Updated : 2015-10-30

High-profile celebrity cases handled same as others, mild-mannered veteran jurist says

Lin Meimei, judge of Beijing Dongcheng District People's Court

Lin Meimei finally took her son to watch the cartoon film The Minions recently, after letting him down a number of times. "Reading court papers and studying cases robbed me of the time I would otherwise have spent with him," said Lin, a judge who became popular after hearing a series of criminal cases involving celebrities, such as Guo Meimei and Jaycee Chan.

Lin was under the spotlight after she sentenced Guo, a micro-blogger whose online posts tarnished the reputation of the Red Cross Society of China in 2011, to five years in prison and fined her 50,000 yuan ($7,840) on Sept 10 for organizing illegal gambling. Guo confessed to her crime and did not appeal to a higher court.

The trial of Guo also made more people pay attention to Lin, including her son's classmates and their parents. "My boy was proud when they asked about me, but he complained when I worked late or couldn't have a dinner with him," said Lin, who has worked for the criminal department of Beijing Dongcheng District People's Court for 17 years.

Lin also gave a six-month sentence to Jaycee Chan, the son of kung fu superstar Jackie Chan, for hosting others who took drugs at his home earlier this year.

"Hearing the cases involving celebrities, in fact, is no different from handling others. I handled them strictly in line with the law. But I was more careful and told myself not to miss any details, and I aimed to make the facts clear and ensured that the evidence stood up," she said. "After all, such cases attract a great deal of public attention, and we may be criticized if we don't handle them well."

The judge, 42, said that she has a habit of taking notes while reading court papers, "because this can help me figure out the details quickly and improve my memory about litigants' appeals".

With her rich experience of case hearings, some complicated and influential disputes were also given to her to try, such as an explosion in downtown Beijing and telecom fraud, according to a statement provided by the court.

She said that these cases put her under a great deal of pressure, which she sought to ease by pursuing her hobbies of keeping fish and growing flowers.

To prevent judgments from being affected by public opinion, she said that she refused to read any comment about the defendants on the Internet before the trials and highlighted the importance of making an independent judgment.

Zhu Wei, deputy director of the communication law center at China University of Political Science and Law, approved Lin's move, saying that the focus of a case hearing lies in the law rather than gossip about the defendants.

"An open trial is necessary, and it is a way of popularizing legal knowledge among the public," Zhu said. "Ensuring a fair trial is the priority, no matter who the defendants are."

Gao Xiaoyan, Lin's colleague, spoke highly of Lin, saying the experienced judge is gentle and friendly to every litigant. The major reason that controversial cases are assigned to her is "because she is serious about dealing with everything, which can establish a good image of judges, but at the same time, she is mild, which can effectively alleviate the atmosphere in trials and maintain order in the hearings", Gao said.