People's Assessors System, Current Function, and Its Fate in Future: A Study of the Lay Judge System in China

Bin Liang, Oklahoma State University, Tulsa
Hong Lu, University of Nevada - Las Vegas

Lay participation in adjudication has been prevalent around the world, existing in major legal traditions such as common, civil and socialist legal systems. Though the majority of nations in the world have gone through a process of professionalization, the lay practice has been kept in various forms (e.g., jury practice, magistrate judges, and lay judges in mixed judge panels) to serve important purposes such as involvement of the community, a deterrence of power abuse by professional judges, legitimization of final rulings, and a means of fostering civic education. Lay participation has been regarded fundamentally important for democracy, justice, and socio-legal change. This paper assesses a unique form of lay participation in adjudication -- the people's assessors system, in China by discussing its historical and legal developments, current practices, and future prospects. Following previous studies of lay participation in general, we conduct a two-step project to study both the selection of people's assessors (selection) and the actual role they play in the courtroom (participation). Both interviews and questionnaires are conducted to collect information from professional judges and people's assessors (lay judges).

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Updated 05/20/2006