Judges nationwide have been ordered to provide more detailed verdicts after trials, explaining such details as why certain evidence was dismissed and specifics on what law is being applied – especially in cases in which defendants face the death penalty.
Court rulings involving appeals and retrials, as well as complex cases or those related to new types of disputes, should also be written with more explanation, a guideline released by the Supreme People’s Court on Tuesday said.
The guideline on improved writing of rulings aims to make verdicts easier to read and more understandable for litigants and ordinary people, as well as to improve the image of judges.
Judges should use words that explain why they reached the opinion that a defendant’s behavior had broken the law or regulations. If needed, judges can use graphics and lists, the guideline said.
“A high-quality verdict not only effectively solves a dispute, but also helps the public understand court work and laws,” said Li Shaoping, vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court. “But a flawed verdict will confuse litigants, expose judges’ carelessness and harm justice.”
In November, for example, Li Hongtao, a judge from a court in Dong’an county, Hunan province, was criticized and punished after he released a one-page verdict on a civil matter that featured seven simple mistakes, such as errors in spelling, times and the litigant’s identity card number.
In May, the top court ordered courts nationwide to strictly review rulings online and select officials or senior judges to help improve the quality of rulings.
Cai Xiao, a judge at Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing, welcomed the guideline. “A quality ruling must answer all questions or doubts from both sides in a dispute,” she said.
She compared a logical and clear ruling to a high-quality calling card for a judge, adding that leaving some suggestions for litigants at the end of a verdict is a necessity.
A verdict should show judges’ professionalism but cannot be too professional, she said. “After all, an easily read ruling is more effective and practical for settling problems.”