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China on the move: A judge's new concept
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Judges are usually seen as solemn and relentless people. But today's judges, especially those working at the grassroots level, tend to be more amiable, especially as mediation is becoming an important means to deal with civil cases. Being a mediation judge for ten years, Chen Liaomin represents this new type of judge.

Dealing with more than a thousand cases a year makes Chen Liaomin one of the busiest judges of Xihu People's Court in Hangzhou City. The first case she has this morning is about compensation for the victim of a traffic accident.

No agreement is reached after an hour debate. Chen halts her mediation and leaves both parties to think it over quietly.

Chen Liaomin said, "People involved in lawsuits usually have lots of complaints. The complaints can't disappear if they just have a piece of paper as the final judgment. While providing a solution, I am also trying to reconcile both sides."

But, it's easier said than done. Chen has to deal with at least four or five cases a day, with numerous quarreling around her.

During the intermission of the first case, Chen begins to deal with another one, and the people of the third case are already waiting for her.

Finally, the traffic accident case is done after the insurance company agrees to provide more compensation.

Chen tells reporters, mediation saves a lot more time than court hearings, and the execution of the judgment is much easier.

Chen Liaomin said, "Smooth communication with the parties involved in lawsuits is very important for a mediation judge. That means judges have to spend more effort to persuade people. I am glad to see the involved parties leaving satisfied."

Unfortunately we don't see Judge Chen holding court. Chen's colleague tells us among the cases Chen deals with, nearly 90 percent of accusers withdraw their lawsuits and accept Chen's mediation.

Traditionally, Chinese people tend to avoid lawsuits. Along with the rapid economic and social progress, legal consciousness is being enhanced in people's mind. Simply in Xihu court, more than 10 thousand cases were registered last year, and the number of cases is increasing 30 percent every year.

Chen Juan, vice president of Xihu People's Court, Hangzhou City,said, "Resolving social conflicts are more important than judgment. A good judge shouldn't focus only on the techniques of litigation. Their capability of mediation and persuasion is equally important. This is also a criteria for a qualified judge in the new era."

Besides the increasing amount, the cases are much more diversified than ever, especially in the eastern provinces with a booming economy and rapid change occurring in every aspect of society.

Rapid development brings prosperity to China, but legislation can't be as rapid as social and economic development. It leads to the absence of legal basis for solving new types of conflicts. it is difficult to some extent for the people to accept the judges decision made with their power of discretion. and that also leads to the uncertainty in the application of law. This is not only a challenge for the judges inside this building , but also an issue for the entire justice system in China.

(CCTV September 17, 2009)

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