China has established its second circuit court in the city of Shenyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning. This, together with the one set up in the southern city of Shenzhen a few days ago, are going to deal with their first cases on Monday.
The inauguration ceremony for the second circuit court to be set up in China this week. Another important step in China's judicial reform.
On Sunday, 9 presiding judges and 4 officials were selected to serve in the court in Shenyang. The circuit court will have the same powers as the Supreme People's Court in Beijing. The court will handle cross-province cases and issue final verdicts.
"The circuit court will look into cases like major administrative civil cases and commercial cases. The Supreme People's Court will no longer take such cases in the circuit region. It's not an independent court. Its decisions will be equivalent to that of the Supreme Court," said Sun Jungong, spokesman of Supreme People's Court.
The Circuit courts will help local communities file cases directly and hence save time. No longer will a litigant in the very eastern or southern provinces have to travel all the way to Beijing.
The Shenyang court will have jurisdiction over the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, while the Shenzhen court, which was set up earlier in the week, will have jurisdiction over the provinces of Guangdong and Hainan, and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
They are also seen as a way of increasing judicial independence, by reducing local officials' power to interfere in the judiciary.
According to current rules, people can only sue a provincial-level government department in an intermediate people's court. These courts are set up in major cities in each province. This system left room for regional protectionism, in the form of the intermediate courts protecting local government agencies. The opening of circuit courts is expected to curb this protectionism and further promote justice.
Liu Guixiang, head judge of the No. 1 circuit court in Shenzhen, has promised a hands-on approach. "We will hear cases not just in Shenzhen. We will go to Hainan Province or Guangxi to help solve conflicts at a local level. We will also dispatch presiding judges and other staff to local communities to hear judicial cases filed by the public," Liu said.
The major judges in the two circuit courts are selected and appointed by the Supreme People's Court. They will rotate every two years to prevent a relationship developing with local officials. In an anti-graft effort, the courts' daily operation will be supervised by a monitoring group. The presiding judges will have life-long accountability for the decisions they hand down. And member of the public can lodge complaints online.