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CHINA LEGAL SCIENCE | 中国司法荣誉制度研究:以2003年至2018年表彰的全国模范法官为研究对象
日期:20-03-28 来源:CHINA LEGAL SCIENCE 作者:zzs

RESEARCH ON THE JUDICIAL HONOR SYSTEM OF CHINA: TAKING 360 NATIONAL MODEL JUDGES COMMENDED FROM 2003 TO 2018 AS RESEARCH SUBJECTS


Mi Chuanzhen


I. INTRODUCTION


There have been many outstanding judges abroad, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Benjamin N. Cardozo, Louis D. Brandeis, Learned Hand and so on. Thus, who are the outstanding judges in China? What are the characteristics of Chinese outstanding judges? How to be a National Model Judge in China? The following part of this paper will give us a brief portrayal of the reward activities conducted by the Supreme People’s Court of People’s Republic of China (SPC) over the past decades, which forms the current judicial honor system of China. The third part of this paper will provide a literature review of relevant research involving the National Model Judges and judicial honor system of China, which finds that so far the academic community has lacked comprehensive research on the National Model Judges group and the creating model practice of the SPC. The fourth part is going to analyze the characteristics of 360 National Model Judges in the aspect of age, gender, ethnicity, educational qualification, length of employment, number of cases handled, political hierarchy, political status, health condition and so on. The fifth part is a critique, and it will focus on the current problems of the application of the judicial honor system and propose corresponding countermeasures. The sixth part is the conclusion of this paper.


II. A BRIEF PORTRAYAL OF THE REWARD ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED BY THE SPC OVER THE PAST DECADES


The National Model Judge is the highest honorary title of the judges in China. In 2003, for the first time in history, the SPC conferred the honorary title of National Model Judge on a batch of 64 judges. From 2013 to 2018, in accordance with the Interim Provisions on the Reward of People’s Courts passed in 2003, the SPC conferred the honorary title of National Model Judge on 304 judges four times. In addition, the SPC also awarded 56 judges as the National Model Judges posthumously or separately during this period. Therefore, there are a total of 360 National Model Judges.

Furthermore, the SPC has conferred the honorary title of National Outstanding Judge on a total of 880 judges, the National Court Pacemaker in Case Handling honorary title on a total of 799 judges, the National Court Advanced Figure honorary title on a total of 920 judges, the National Outstanding Female Judge honorary title on a total of 136 female judges from 2003, and the SPC also selected two terms of Ten Elites among Chinese Judges and one term of the Most Beautiful Grassroots Judge. The Top Ten Figures in People’s Court of the Year was awarded in the People’s Court Daily, and the Honorary Scales Medals were awarded to many people. The above is a brief portrayal of the reward activities conducted by the SPC over the past 16 years.

To research on the judges that were commended at the national level is of great significance for summarizing China’s judicial honor system and the incentive mechanism for the judges. What is puzzling is that even the judges themselves are not impressed universally with the National Model Judges, and ‘only remember that most of them are diligent and hardworking pacesetters.’ Further, why are there very few judge models that are remembered by the public? What are the distinguishing features of the 360 National Model Judges? How to evaluate the effectiveness of the current judicial honor system of China? How to solve its problems?

By studying the National Model Judges, we can discover the typical characteristics of the National Model Judges, summarize the typical images created by the SPC and reflect on the model production mechanism of judge models, which are of great academic value to assess the effectiveness of the judicial honor system and the judge incentive mechanism of China and to solve its problems. Research on the judicial honor system also has practical significance. 

With the implementation of the System of the Specified Number of Judge, judges in China has been reduced from 210,000 to the current 120,000. However, the cases accepted by the courts in recent years are still growing substantially and the court still faces the dilemma between more cases and fewer judges. How to solve the problems of incentives for judges are the tasks that the SPC must respond to in the judicial honor system and incentive mechanism for court staff. To study the application of the judicial honor system in the past years has a guiding role in solving the above problems.


III. THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY DID NOT PAY ENOUGH ATTENTION TO THE NATIONAL MODEL JUDGES AND THE JUDICIAL HONOR SYSTEM


Some scholars study model judges from the perspective of the judicial honor system and judicial culture. Li Guangde believes that it is necessary to resort to the judicial honor ceremony to achieve the role of judicial honor, which ignores that the ritual has a very limited incentive for the judges. Besides, Li believes that the judicial honor system is not methodical, which has proved to be wrong. We find that the judicial honor system has shown certain rules. The National Model Judge honorary title has been commended once every four years since 2003, not the unfixed selection cycle stated in Li’s paper. Leng Chuanli believes that lawyers can judge the merits and demerits of judges more empirically than scholars. However, there are few National Model Judges who can win wide compliment from lawyers. Leng’s research also failed to present a specific and quantifiable criterion for good judges from the perspective of lawyers.

The SPC’s reward mechanism for judges nationwide is mainly based on spiritual rewards. The judicial honor system is an important part of the incentive mechanism for court staff nationwide designed by the SPC. It is regrettable that the SPC has adopted a spiritual reward-based approach to motivate court staff. Scholars advocate that the judges should be separated from the civil service sequence and have higher salaries, which is obviously not practical at present. The SPC’s reward mechanism for judges nationwide is mainly based on spiritual rewards, that is, awarding judges with different levels of honorary titles. 

However, it is not enough to equate conferring judges on different level honorary titles with the judicial honor system. While a judge is awarded the honorary title, it is accompanied with an increase in personal income, although the increase may not be great. The decision of the SPC to confer the National Model Judges honorary titles on a batch of 69 judges in 2016 also stated explicitly: ‘People who have been awarded the honorary title of the National Model Judges enjoy provincial-level advanced workers and labor model’s treatment,’ we can well perceive that the judicial honor system is an important part of the incentive mechanism for court staff.

There are some studies on specific individuals of the National Model Judges group. The well-known Song Yushui, Chen Yanping and Jin Guilan are research objects of many scholars. Professor Su Li believes that the experience and significance of Chen Yanping are limited to grass-roots courts and that China judicial system has shaped itself into an intimate and considerate female image while what the judicial system really needs are intellectual idols. However, the image of intimate and considerate female judges is only one of many faces of judge models. Professor Liu Xing believes that the experience of Song Yushui is individualized but has certain universality, which contains a new judicial model of active man-of-the-people trial. Some papers study Chen Yanping, Long Jinpin and Huang Denglin who are famous in local areas, and all these studies have noticed the locality of grass-roots justice, but they fail to point out the hidden problems. Zhang Jian analyzes the characteristics of 100 National Outstanding Judges commended in 2013 from their gender and job positions, which is a useful but not deep exploration.

Staff in the court system have stronger research interests in the National Model Judge group than the scholars. Liu Jing and Liu Zhenhua find that the National Model Judges present the images of moral models, iron man, man of the people, mediation experts, scholar-type judges and modern professional judges. Except for the erroneous statistics, their analysis of the characteristics of the National Model Judges was rough, ignoring many important variables. Meng Gaofei and Yu Xi sort out the judicial honor titles, and analyze the flaws and values of the judicial honor system. The obvious shortcomings of Meng and Yu’s study are that no practical suggestions for improvement are proposed, and no comparative analyses of the National Model Judges in different periods are conducted.

The excellent female judges have received special attention from researchers, but the related researches have shown the characteristics of less quantitative and more qualitative. Although female judges already have the chance of obtaining the National Outstanding Judge honorary title, the SPC also conferred the National Outstanding Female Judges honorary title on a total of 136 female judges each year from 2006 to 2009. Fang Le believes that the reason why female judges have outstanding performance is that they all strive to integrate personal life experience into judicial experience, and they can choose a problem-solving method according to the specific circumstances of the case. Whether the SPC prefers to confer honorary title on female judges or not needs to be verified by statistics.

In general, there have been some studies that focus on the part of National Model Judges especially some outstanding female judges. Researchers have paid much attention to a certain part of the National Model Judge group and some specific individuals, such as Song Yushui, Chen Yanping and Jin Guilan. However, these researches have shown the characteristics of less quantitative and more qualitative. So far, the academic community has lacked comprehensive empirical research and review on the reward practice of the SPC against the judges, especially the National Model Judges.
 
IV. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE 360 NATIONAL MODEL JUDGE HONORARY TITLE OWNERS


This part will show us that the 360 National Model Judge honorary title owners who were commended from 2003 to 2018 show regularity in many important variables including the age, gender, ethnicity, education qualification, length of employment, number of cases handled, political hierarchy, political status, health condition and so on.

A collective commendation lasts several months from the start to the end. For example, the SPC conferred the National Model Judge honorary title on a batch of 69 judges on January 18 2016, but the notice of the selection of the National Model Judge was issued in the second half of 2015. We use the year in which the notice is issued by the SPC as the commendation year for the National Model Judges. The relevant information of the 360 National Model Judges mainly comes from the People’s Court Daily, the China Trial, the Law Yearbook of China, the official websites of the SPC, China Court, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, China Piece sponsored by the Central Political and the Legal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and local courts.

The National Model Judge honorary title has been commended once every four years since 2003 and the populations of the National Model Judges of the years of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 are 64, 68, 66 and 69. The populations of the National Model Judges awarded posthumously and separately from 2003 to 2018 are 19 and 37. The following part will have a comprehensive analysis of the 360 National Model Judges in the aspects of age, gender, ethnicity, education qualification, length of employment, number of cases handled, political hierarchy, political status, health condition and so on.


A. Age of the National Model Judges


No more than 70 judges are commended each time, which makes the National Model Judge undoubtedly an extremely scarce symbol resource. Age is an important criterion for allocating scarce resources and the current incentive mechanism for court staff also attempts to allocate the National Model Judge honorary title according to age.


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For many reasons, the age information in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 is short of 13, 10, 8 and 10 respectively. For the National Model Judges commended in batches, the average age of the National Model Judges who were first commended in 2003 was two years younger than the average age of the next three groups, which may be because there is no clear precedent to follow. The average age of the National Model Judges in the group of 2007, 2011 and 2015 were basically around 44.5 years old, which indicate that the National Model Judges showed stability in their age gradually. The stability in age of the National Model Judges is also reflected in the fact that the standard deviations of 2007, 2011 and 2015 are gradually decreasing, which means that the age differences between individuals in the National Model Judges are getting smaller and they are getting closer in age. Regardless of the average age or standard deviation of the age data, the National Model Judges commended in batches has shown stability in their ages. 

From the perspective of age, the National Model Judges commended posthumously and separately are significantly different from the National Model Judges commended in batches. The average age of the National Model Judges who were commended posthumously was 46.5 years old and they were awarded posthumously as the National Model Judges one year after death on average, which is the largest in all the groups. The average age of the National Model Judges who were commended separately was 45.2, one year older than the average age 44.2 of the National Model Judges who were commended in batches. The average age of the National Model Judges commended posthumously was 46.5 years old, which is more than two years older than the average age of the National Model Judges commended in batches. In addition, the standard deviations of the judges in the group of National Model Judge honorary title owners who were commended posthumously (CP) and National Model Judges who were commended separately (CS) are much larger than that of the judges who were commended in batches, which indicates that the samples of the National Model Judges in the group of CP and CS had large age differences.

The above analysis reflects the flexibility of the SPC in conferring the honorary title on judges. Compared with conferring a judge on National Model Judge honorary title in batches, less consideration in age is given when conferring a judge on National Model Judge honorary title posthumously or separately. 


B. Gender of the National Model Judges


In theory, gender should be a factor that the SPC must consider in the incentive mechanism for court staff. The SPC has conferred the National Outstanding Judge title on judges in the court system every two years from 2006 to the present. At the same time, the SPC conferred the National Outstanding Female Judge honorary title on female judges each year from 2006 to 2009. Although conferring both the National Outstanding Judge and the National Outstanding Female Judge at the same time shows the unreasonableness of the incentive mechanism for judges, it also indicates directly that female judges and the gender factor play an important role in the incentive mechanism.

From the propaganda on the female National Model Judges, thoughtfulness, meticulousness, patience and enthusiasm are considered to be the unique attribute of the female judges. These characters are very common in the propaganda campaigns of female model judges. The model judges engaged in juvenile trials are all shaped into Judge Mother and Judge Mother even becomes their unified names. There are 9 female National Model Judges including Chen Yanping, Zhan Hongli, Qiu Zhongcui, Qiu Jianjun, Li Qihong, Jia Jianping, Zhong Lihua, Chen Haiyi, and Fan Hongyan are named Judge Mother in their propaganda. The propaganda mode of Judge Mother can be traced back to the film Judge Mother in 2001 at least. These above facts show that the SPC has used the gender of female judges as rhetoric resources actively.


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The total number of the female National Model Judges is 117, accounting for 32.5 percent, and the proportions of female National Model Judges in every group are on the rise. According to a relevant research, in 2004, female judges nationwide accounted for 22.7 percent of the total number of judges in China and in 2013, the ratio was 30.2 percent. Compared to 30.2 percent with 36.36 percent and 42.03 percent, the percent of female National Model Judges in the group of 2011 and 2015 in Table 2 respectively, we find that the proportion of female National Model Judges in all the National Model Judges exceeds that of female judges in all judges of China by at least six percentage points and even close to twelve percentage points at the highest. Therefore, it is safe to say that female judges are more likely to obtain the National Model Judge honorary titles than male judges. 

Furthermore, why does the SPC prefer female judges to male judges when it confers the National Model Judge honorary title on judges? Su Li speculated that female judges can withstand the long-term test than male judges, that is, the courts are more reassuring to the female judges than to the male judges. However, by measuring the corruption tolerance level of Chinese civil servants, some scholars have found that Chinese women are no more incorruptible than men. The speculation that female judges are more incorruptible than male judges requires further verification of empirical studies. Among the 360 National Model Judges, Li Hepeng, Shi Chengjun, Shen Xiangdong and Li Xiaoyu are found guilty and among the four guilty National Model Judges, only Li Xiaoyu is a woman. The guilty male National Model Judges account for 1.23 percent of all male National Model Judges, while the guilty female National Model Judge accounts for 0.85 percent of all female National Model Judges. The probability of the female National Model Judges to commit crimes is only 0.38 percent lower than that of the male National Model Judges. The advantage in the probability 0.38 percent is not commensurate with the fact that the proportion of female National Model Judges in all the National Model Judges exceeds that of female judges in all judges nationwide by at least six percentage points and even close to twelve percentage points.

The female judges obtain the National Model Judge honorary titles in a higher probability than the male judges, but the female National Model Judges commit crimes not in corresponding lower probability than the male National Model Judges. The speculation that the SPC prefers female judges to male judges because female judges are more incorruptible than male judges is falsified at least by the analysis.


C. Length of Employment of the National Model Judges


Due to hierarchy restrictions, the SPC is far from the judges at the grass-roots court, it does not have the private information of the judges who are conferred the National Model Judge honorary titles and it is difficult to determine whether the candidate is capable of being models in the court system or not. Time testing is an important way for people to obtain information and for the SPC the age and the length of employment in court of the candidate is undoubtedly an information screening mechanism of determining whether the judges meet the requirements of article 13 of the Interim Provisions on the Reward of People’s Courts or not. 

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This paper defines the length of employment as the length of time between the judges employed in court system for the first time and obtaining his or her National Model Judge honorary titles. The length of employment is measured in terms of years. The length of employment information in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and CS are short of 12, 13, 8, 4 and 2 respectively.

The averages of the time of employment of the National Model Judges in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 are quite different, showing a gradual growing trend, which increases the scarcity of the National Model Judge honorary title. Although the length of employment of judges in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 show a striking consistency in the maximums and minimums and the standard deviations of these samples are basically close, the averages of the length of employment of judges in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 are showing a gradual growing trend and getting longer, which increases the scarcity of the National Model Judge honorary title. The average length of employment 21.3 in the group of 2015 is one year longer than the averages 19.8 in 2007 and the 19.7 in 2011. In other words, compared with the previous National Model Judges, the National Model Judges in the group of 2015 stood a longer test to obtain the National Model Judge honorary titles, which undoubtedly increases the scarcity of the honorary title.

As for why the SPC increased the length of employment in the court system, the reasons may be very complicated. Firstly, it may be because a small number of National Model Judges have been found guilty, which not only reduces the value of the National Model Judge honorary titles, but also tarnished the reputation of the SPC jointly, which forces the SPC to increase the lengths of employment. Secondly, it may also be because with the standardization of recruitment of the court system, the age of judges entering the court system is becoming younger than the previous. 

The SPC has increased the length of employment in the court system required to obtain the National Model Judge honorary titles probably because more and more judges are becoming younger when they enter the court, which is not an unfounded guess. The more time is pushed forward, the more diversified the ways in which model judges enter the courts are. In previous years, some National Model Judges were directly transferred to the court from other government department; some National Model Judges were assigned to the court after graduation in the planned economy era; some National Model Judges entered the court through public recruitment; some National Model Judges were demobilized militaries who were transferred to the court after retiring; some National Model Judges were transferred to the courts temporarily and then transferred to the courts officially. The more time is pushed forward, the more likely the court is not the first choice for judges to enter the job market. These judge models in previous years are likely to have other work experience before entering the court and they may have once been soldiers, teachers, workers, doctors, lawyers and civil servants in other government departments before they become judges. The more time is pushed forward, the more simplified the ways job seekers enter the court system are, that is, they are recruited into the court through public examination. 

The above analysis has been verified by the statistics: the average ages of the National Model Judges in the group of 2003, 2007 and 2011 entering the court system were 24.2, 25, and 24.9 respectively, and the average age of the National Model Judges who were awarded in 2015 entering the court system was only 22.8, which means that the judges entered the court system in advance for nearly two years. In the view of the SPC, conferring younger judges on the highest honorary titles may cause moral hazard and extending the lengths of employment of these judge models before awarding honorary titles correspondingly is a secure strategy. We can predict that as the way the court system recruits staff becomes more standardized and unified, courts may become the first career choice of more and more job seekers and judges who want to be honored as the National Model Judges will stand longer test than before.


D. Ethnic Minorities in the National Model Judges


The following table shows the number and proportion of minority model judges under the corresponding groups. In this paper, judges who are not Han nationality are identified as minority judges.

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Table 4 shows that the minority National Model Judges accounted for a very high proportion of all National Model Judges in each group except the National Model Judges awarded in 2003, which is still much higher than 8 percent, the proportion of minority population in the national population of China. These ratios are sufficient to show that ethnic factors are important variables when conferring honorary title on judges.

We find that the minority model judges are described as experts in understanding the local minority languages and customs and they can integrate national laws and local customary norms to handle hard cases flexibly, which reduces the information costs incurred by language barriers. The high information costs caused by language barriers are no bluff. For example, the Intermediate People’s Court in Nujiang district of the Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, an autonomous prefecture in the northwest of Yunnan Province of China, hires translators for an annual fee of more than 200,000 yuan. In the Nujiang River, the Lisu slang is the common language, and if judges do not speak Lisu, they cannot handle cases. Minority judges knowing minority languages who return to their hometown after receiving higher education will reduce the information costs incurred by language barriers, such as Tibetan judge Gerong Dingzhu, She nationality judge Lan Huiqin, Lisu nationality judge Deng Xing, Hui nationality judge Long Jinpin, judge Huang Denglin who is familiar with three minority languages including the nationality of Miao, Yi and Gelao, the Uighur judge Gulimire Abulizi the only one who can draft judgments both in Uighur and Chinese in Tianshan District People’s Court. 

However, we cannot equate ‘being a minority judge’ with ‘speaking minority languages and knowing local customary norms’ simply. According to field research conducted by the High People’s Court of Yunnan Province, although some judges are minority nationality on the resume, quite a few judges do not speak minority languages because ‘most of them only have one parent who is a minority, ethnic minority status is only a symbol to them.’ According to the current policy of China, if one of the parents is a minority, then the child can choose to be the Han or the minority. Although the minority nationality attribute of the judge is an important information screening mechanism for the court to verify whether a judge can speak minority languages and know local customary norms which are necessary in handling cases involving minority parties, the effectiveness of this information screening mechanism is limited. If the SPC wants to honor the outstanding minority judges in the future, it must do a detailed work: with the minority nationality attribute as the information screening mechanism, it is also necessary to increase the actual inspection to verify whether the candidate really has the ability to speak minority languages and understand local customary norms.


E. Number of Cases Handled by the National Model Judges


In recent years, the number of cases accepted by courts nationwide of China has increased year by year. In this situation, the number of cases handled by judges is an important indicator of their abilities. From the statistics, is the number of cases handled an important variable that affects the SPC whether conferring the honorary title on a judge or not?

However, the judge’s personal ability and the judge’s devotion in a certain case is private information, which is not in the hands of the SPC. For the court leaders, the number of cases handled is an important information screening mechanism to verify the judge’s ability and devotion in cases; for capable judges, taking the initiative to do more cases is also sending a signal to the court leaders to show their high abilities, which is beneficial to obtain honorary titles. 

How to make sure the personal ability of staff is a universal problem. The number of cases handled is a measurable and observable criterion for knowing the personal ability of a judge. However, it is also very difficult to examine the number of cases handled by the National Model Judges. Firstly, the National Model Judges are not a homogeneous group to some extent. Some National Model Judges are the leaders of their courts, their main job is to manage rather than undertake specific trials; Some National Model Judges are not judges engaged in the trial work, but bailiffs or engaged in file management, filing, complaints and proposals, finance and even logistics services. Secondly, because China is a big country with uneven political, economic and social development, the number of cases handled by judges in developed areas and that of cases handled by judges in less-developed areas is not comparable. Thirdly, because the types of cases vary, even if judges are engaged in trial business, judges engaged in criminal trials and judges engaged in civil cases may not be comparable in the number of cases handled. Fourthly, there is a problem of team production of information economics in judicial activities. The output results we observed are the work of multi-persons rather than one person. Perhaps the chief judge in the ordinary procedure is nominal and the main work is done by the other members of the collegiate bench but not by the chief judge, but these cases the nominal judge did not participate may also be counted as the cases he or she handled. Lastly, although the number of cases handled is important, it is not a necessary requirement to award the honorary title in the Interim Provisions on the Reward of People’s Courts. In the propaganda of judge models, some statistics of the number of cases handled are rough estimates, while others only refer to the number of cases handled within a certain period of time. 

Although there are many unfavorable factors to analyze the number of cases handled by the National Model Judges, these factors exist at the same time in each period, having the same impact on the National Model Judges in different groups. Therefore, it is still possible and meaningful to examine the diachronic changes in the number of cases handled by the National Model Judges who have been commended in different periods. The following table is a comparison of the number of cases handled by the National Model Judges, which refers to the number of cases handled by the judge between him or her entering the court and obtaining the National Model Judge honorary title. The samples of number of cases handled by the National Model Judges in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, CP and CS are 21, 45, 42, 48, 28 and 12 respectively.

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From the quality of the data, only 32.8 percent of the National Model Judges commended in 2003 revealed the number of cases handled. The proportions of the National Model Judges who revealed the number of cases handled in the group of 2007, 2011, 2015, CP and CS are 66.2 percent, 63.6 percent, 69.6 percent, 75.7 percent and 63.2 percent respectively. On the whole, the National Model Judges who revealed the number of cases they handled are maintained at a relatively high and stable ratio, which means that the SPC has always cared the number of cases handled when conferring honorary titles. The averages of the number of cases handled by the judges in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 have shown an increasing trend, increasing from 1,306 to 2,175, and we can foresee that judges who want to obtain the National Model Judge honorary titles in the future must handle more cases. All the standard deviation values are large, which indicates that the differences of number of cases handled by the National Model Judges within every group are very obvious, which is also reflected in the differences between maximums and minimums. 

According to the statistics above, the maximums of cases handled by model judges have increased from 4,000 to 7,000 gradually, however, there is not much valuable information we can obtain from it. In order to set a model, the local courts ‘may give some simple cases to the judge to ensure the number of cases handled, which means they can close the case easily and quickly’, and the local courts may also report the number of cases handled falsely even the number is theoretically impossible, which instead ‘derives many honest and upright judges stay away from the selection of the National Model Judge honorary titles.’ As for the trend of the increasing number of cases handled by the National Model Judges, we should be cautious, and pay attention to the number of cases handled by judges but not overemphasize this number.


F. Educational Qualifications of the National Model Judges


According to article 12 of the Interim Provisions on the Reward of People’s Courts, judges who study political theory, legal professional knowledge and scientific and cultural knowledge hard should be rewarded. In 2001, article 9 of the Judges Law of the People’s Republic of China increased the knowledge qualification of judge from senior college degree in law to at least a bachelor’s degree, to be specific, the judges must graduate from law specialties of colleges or universities or from non-law specialties of colleges or universities but possessing the professional knowledge of law. This qualification was revised in 2017, but it still requires judges to have at least a bachelor’s degree. From the qualification change, we can say that whether a staff in court has a bachelor’s degree or not is an important variable affecting him or her obtaining the National Model Judge honorary titles.

In this paper, the National Model Judges who have obtained a junior or senior college degree in law or a bachelor’s degree through self-taught higher education examination, correspondence course and so on are also recognized as having legal knowledge; after the judge entered the court, he or she who obtains a bachelor’s degree through various methods is also recognized as having a bachelor’s degree; if the judge continues to receive higher education after entering the court and obtain a higher degree, the final academic qualification shall prevail. Since the SPC does not clearly state the qualifications are necessary to award the National Model Judge honorary titles, some National Model Judges did not mention their educational qualifications and some National Model Judges declared their educational qualifications as the vague college or college degree, which makes it difficult for us to calculate the educational qualifications of them accurately. This paper will regard the educational qualifications of the National Model Judges who mentioned in the publicity explicitly that having bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degrees as bachelor, master and doctor correspondingly, and the educational qualifications information of the judges who have junior college degree, senior college degree, technical secondary school, college, college graduation are collectively referred to as others.


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The educational levels of the National Model Judges are showing an increasing trend. Firstly, although the number of National Model Judges with bachelor’s degrees in 2015 was smaller than the number of National Model Judges with bachelor’s degrees in 2011, the number of the National Model Judges with bachelor’s degrees increased overall. Secondly, no National Model Judges had a doctoral degree before 2015. Since 2015, there have been 7 National Model Judges having doctoral degrees. Thirdly, on one hand, the numbers of National Model Judges with bachelor’s degrees or above in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 are 30, 33, 41, and 45 respectively, the corresponding proportions are 46.9 percent, 48.5 percent, 62.1 percent and 65.2 percent. On the other hand, the National Model Judges in the group of others are decreasing. 

However, with the educational levels of the National Model Judges increasing gradually, we must also pay attention to the other side of the coin, the quality of the educational qualifications of the judges. In Table 5, there are a total of 74 National Model Judges with degrees of others such as senior college degree, accounting for one-fifth of all the National Model Judges. There are only 185 National Model Judges with bachelor’s degrees or above, which is still far from the requirements of the Judges Law of the People’s Republic of China that judges should at least have a bachelor’s degree. 

The number of National Model Judges who entered the court after receiving undergraduate education at law school was very small. On the contrary, a large number of National Model Judges obtained their bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree after they entered the court through self-taught higher education examination, correspondence course and so on. Their typical experiences are that a man from a non-legal professional class enters the court, obtains a college degree after graduation in the National Court Cadre Amateur College, then obtains a bachelor’s degree through the self-taught higher education examination, and then continues to obtain a master’s degree through on-the-job postgraduates. There is even a National Model Judge who did not finish his junior high school and obtained the senior college degree through the National Court Cadre Amateur College after entering the court. 

According to the statistics of this paper, among the 185 judges with bachelor’s degrees or above, there are at least 34 judges who have obtained a senior college degree through the National Court Cadre Amateur College and then obtained a bachelor’s degree through the self-taught higher education examination, or directly obtained a bachelor’s degree through the self-taught higher education examination. The author does not discriminate the judges who obtained bachelor’s degrees through the self-taught higher education examination, but wants to emphasize that we must also pay attention to the quality of educational qualifications of judges. After all, even most judges in the court system do not take the diplomas obtained through correspondence and the self-taught higher education examination seriously and they even admit that ‘the least valuable diploma is the senior college degree of the National Court Cadre Amateur College’. Under the premise that the judicial reform requires the professionalization and elitism of judges, the SPC must pay more attention to the quality of the judge’s educational qualifications when awarding them honorary titles, which will be more conducive to the function of the honorary titles.


G. Political Hierarchies of the National Model Judges


Article 9 of the Interim Provisions on the Reward of People’s Courts requires it clearly: ‘The leading cadres at or above the department level shall not be awarded the honorary title in principle. The reward for Senior Judge of the Second Rank or above shall be strictly controlled’. When the SPC decided to confer the National Model Judge on judges in 2015, the SPC requires that the proportion of division-level cadres must be controlled within 20 percent, which indicates that the SPC is more inclined to conferring the National Model Judge honorary titles on grass-roots judges. This paper takes the position of the National Model Judges as the analysis object.


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According to article 2 of the Judges Law of the People’s Republic of China, the judges are divided into presidents, vice presidents, members of judicial committees, chief judges and associate chief judges, judges and assistant judges. From the above table, the proportions of president (including deputy) in the National Model Judges showed a downward trend in general. The proportion of the president in the National Model Judges in the group of 2003 was the highest, and the proportion of the president in the group of 2015 was the lowest, only accounting for 11.59 percent. The middle-level cadres of the courts, including the chief judge (including deputy) and the leader of the enforcement department (including deputy), accounted for the highest proportion in all the groups, and this proportions still show an upward trend from 56.56 percent in 2003 to 88.41 percent in 2015. 

As the most common judges in the court system, the judges accounted for a stable proportion in the group of 2003, 2007 and 2011, accounting for about 15 percent, which indicated that the SPC was friendly to the judges in the first three times, and even there was one assistant judge who received the honorary title of the National Model Judge in 2007. However, the judges failed to occupy a place in the group of 2015, and their numbers and proportions plummeted to 0.

In terms of quantity and proportion, the middle-level cadres in the court, including the chief judge (including deputy) and the leader of the enforcement department (including deputy), occupy an absolute dominant position in the National Model Judges, while the ordinary judges are ignored, which is not in line with the preference that the SPC is more inclined to recognize the grass-roots judges. In the future, the SPC must give a certain inclination to the grass-roots judges of the court. With the implementation of the system of the Specified Number of Judge, the divisions of court staff are judges, judicial assistants and judicial administrative personnel and no matter whether the judge takes part in a trial as a member of a collegial panel or to try a case alone, judges must form a trial team. The judicial assistants such as law clerks and clerks are important members of the trial team and they undertake a lot of trial auxiliary work and transactional routines. The court must provide sufficient incentives for judicial assistants and judicial administrative personnel when constructing trial teams. Since the incentive objects are not only the judge but also the staff in courts nationwide of China, the SPC should accommodate a certain proportion of judicial assistants and judicial administrative personnel when awarding honorary titles.


H. Health Condition of the National Model Judges


The following table shows statistics on the health condition of the National Model Judges and the number is the population of the National Model Judges who have a disease, illness or related descriptions in their personal propaganda.


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The above table shows that the health condition of the National Model Judges is worrying generally. In fact, the actual health condition of the National Model Judges is worse than the statistical result shows. Except for Ma Caiyun and Jiang Qing, the two female National Model Judges killed by criminals, the other National Model Judges, accounting for 89.47 percent, who were awarded posthumously died of illness or died of illness at the time of work. The proportion of the sick National Model Judges in the group of CS is slightly higher than that of the sick National Model Judges who have been awarded in the group of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. At least 22 percent of the National Model Judges were suffered from various diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, uremia and various cancers. 

As to why the overall health condition of the National Model Judges is worrying, firstly, it may be related to the heavy workload and working overtime. In the second half of this paper, the statistical analysis shows that half of the National Model Judges work overtime; secondly, it may also be related to the propaganda mode of the National Model Judges. The propaganda mode of the court and the media always tend to shape judges into hard-working labor models and from the perspective of the masses, judges who insist on working after getting the disease should be recognized by the court, which is easy to put the masses in the scene of emotional infection.


I. Other Characteristics of the National Model Judges


In this section we will examine the characteristics of the National Model Judges in other aspects. What is the political status of the National Model Judges? There are only five National Model Judges who are not the Chinese Communist Party members. The majority of the National Model Judges are members of the Chinese Communist Party. It can be seen that the courts and their staff, which is deemed as the handle of knife of the Party, are still in the control of the Party firmly.

The phenomenon of demobilized militaries that were transferred to the court directly after retiring by the government has been criticized by some scholars. The statistics in the table below only refers to the National Model Judges that were transferred to the court directly by the government after leaving the army.


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In the group of 2003, the number of demobilized militaries reached the highest 12, accounting for 18.75 percent. However, the number of demobilized militaries was very low in the next three groups. The number of demobilized militaries in the group of 2015 even deceased to 0. Taking all the National Model Judges as a whole and conducting a diachronic analysis on an annual basis, we find that the numbers of demobilized militaries are 13, 1, 4, 1, 7, and 1 in the year of 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2015 respectively. On the whole, the number of demobilized militaries reached the peak when they were first awarded in 2003 and it has shown a downward trend since 2003. Although there has been a slight increase in the number of demobilized militaries in 2011, the decline of demobilized militaries in National Model Judges are still obvious. We can foresee that in the future, the number of demobilized militaries who will win the National Model Judge honorary titles after they entered the court system will remain small.

V. REFLECTIONS ON THE JUDICIAL HONOR SYSTEM OF CHINA


Some problems of the current judicial honor system of China are mentioned in the analysis of the relevant characteristics of the National Model Judges. This part will summarize the exiting problems in the current judicial honor system of China and propose corresponding improvement measures.


A. There Are Still Uncoordinated and Chaotic Issues in Award Activities


We have mentioned that the judicial honor system of China has shown certain rules. The National Model Judge has been commended once every four years since 2003. The National Outstanding Judge, the National Court Pacemaker in Case Handling and the National Court Advanced Figure honorary titles are all conferred once every two years. Although the current judicial honor system has already presented the above-mentioned rules, there are still uncoordinated and even chaotic issues in awarding the honorary titles.

Firstly, the SPC is immature in the setting of honorary titles. It is mentioned  previously that although female judges already have the chance of obtaining the National Outstanding Judge honorary title from 2006 to the present, the SPC also conferred the National Outstanding Female Judge honorary title on a total of 136 female judges each year from 2006 to 2009, which shows the unreasonableness of the judicial honor system and also indicates directly that the SPC is immature in awarding honorary titles. In addition, when awarding the National Court Advanced Figure once every two years, the SPC also conferred the National Court Bailiff Advanced Figures, the National Court Advanced Figures in Financial Work, the National Court Advanced Figures in Cleaning up Cumulative Cases Campaign, the National Court Advanced Figures in Party Building Work and the National Court Advanced Figures in Judicial Technology Work on the court staff nationwide in the year of 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. These honorary titles are too cumbersome, and it is more appropriate and reasonable to be unified under the National Court Advanced Figure honorary title.

Secondly, the honorary titles are scarce resources, but the SPC failed to show the corresponding prudence and thoroughness in some award activities. Some judges were awarded the National Outstanding Judge title twice in succession; some judges were awarded the National Outstanding Female Judge honorary title in 2006 after being awarded the National Model Judge honorary title in 2003, which is completely superfluous; in October 2017, a judge was awarded the National Outstanding Judge honorary title posthumously and then awarded the National Model Judge honorary title within three months in January 2018, which is an inefficient repeated recognition undoubtedly and also a waste of scarce symbolic resources. In addition, the SPC alone or in conjunction with other departments of China selected two terms of Ten Elites among Chinese Judges in 2003 and 2005 and conferred the Honorary Scales Medals on 31 people in 2007, selected one term the Most Beautiful Grass-roots Judge in 2014. It can be found that most of these temporary commendation activities are awarded once and the frequency of these activities is too high and dense, which shows that the judicial honor system still lacks stability, and also reflects that the SPC did not show the corresponding prudence and thoroughness in these activities.


B. The Time Interval between Winning the National Outstanding Judge and the National Model Judge Is Short


Since the National Model Judge is the highest honor in the court system of China, the SPC must conduct detailed and in-depth screening on the candidate before awarding them. The judicial honorary system for the court staff designed by the SPC must have a certain level of hierarchy. At present, the judicial honorary titles present the high to the low sequence of ‘from the National Model Judge to the National Outstanding Judge to the National Court Advanced Figure and then to the National Court Pacemaker in Case Handling’.

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In general, the SPC should meet the requirements of the low to the high when awarding honorary titles. According to the above table, there were 30, 46, and 57 National Model Judges in the group of 2007, 2011 and 2015 respectively won the National Model Judge honorary title after receiving the National Outstanding Judge honorary title and the proportions in the corresponding group were 44.1 percent, 69.7 percent and 82.6 percent. It can be seen from the increasing proportions that the SPC is gradually forming the practice of awarding honorary titles in accordance with the low to the high. However, there were still many judges who did not receive the title of National Outstanding Judge before winning the National Model Judge honorary title.

To award honorary titles gradually also requires to form a certain time interval between the honorary titles at different levels. As it can be seen from the above table, the average time interval between the National Model Judges winning the honorary title of the National Outstanding Judge and the National Model Judge is increasing from 1 year in 2007 to 2.2 years in 2015. In other words, the National Model Judges in the group of 2015 had stood one year of test longer than the previous groups in order to obtain the honorary title. The time interval between judges winning the honorary title of the National Outstanding Judge and the National Model Judge should be increased appropriately. On the one hand, to increase the time interval between judges winning the honorary title of the National Outstanding Judge and the National Model Judge can increase the symbolic value of these two titles simultaneously, form a sense of hierarchy between the National Outstanding Judge and the National Model Judge and improve the current multi-level and step-by-step judge incentive mechanism. On the other hand, it will help to enhance the screening mechanism on the candidate, and reduce the number and probabilities of the awardees that were later found to violate the law and discipline.


C. Innovate the Stereotyped Formulaic Propaganda Mode of Judges and Create Professional Modern Judges


At present, the media have formed certain modes and routines for the propaganda activities of judge models. We have mentioned in previous that the media used to create the judges who engaged in juvenile crime cases as the Judge Mother. The single propaganda mode of Judge Mother resorts to the persuasion method of ethical appeal, which also reveals its weakness and inferiority. Besides, in 2003, the propaganda of Song Yushui used the description that: ‘She discriminates the law and logic of case, which is approved by both the winning party and the losing party’ and even though Song Yushui herself admitted that not all cases could achieve the goal of being approved by both the winning party and the losing party, but there were still many follow-up National Model Judges using the same description of ‘approved by both the winning party and the losing party’.

The stereotyped formulaic propaganda mode the National Model Judges always tends to shape the judge models into hard-working labor models. In the overall image, the National Model Judges presented a simple appearance of hard-working labor models, the personal characteristics of judges were not obvious, and the appearance of professional modern judges has not formed yet. A judge of the High People’s Court complained that the National Model Judges were mainly diligent, hard-working labor models who did not have time to take care of their families, which resulted in the fact that there were very few model judges that were truly remembered by the public. The author found that ‘opening a court session in the daytime and to write the judgment in the evening’, ‘going to work during the day and working overtime at night’ are universal descriptions in the propaganda of judge models. The following table is the statistics on the overtime description in the personal propaganda of the National Model Judges.

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Since the National Model Judges awarded posthumously emphasize the factor of death in the line of duty, the proportion of overtime descriptions in the CP group is small and in addition, about half of the National Model Judge’s personal propaganda described the situation of overtime. In the stereotyped formulaic propaganda mode, working overtime is considered a quality that deserves to be promoted. The National Model Judges in public propaganda are not economic men but idealists. They often reduce personal leisure time drastically and work overtime, which makes the time allocated to families, children, housework and leisure reduced. To look at the Chinese National Model Judges with the utility function of judge constructed by Richard Posner, we find that the Chinese National Model Judges do not have the trade-off or exchange between working hours and leisure time; they just devote the maximum of personal time to work. The accustomed rhetorical strategy shapes the judge models into hard-working labor models, they know that working overtime means the time allocated to families, children, housework and leisure is reduced but still choose to work overtime resolutely and their families should understand and support the work of the judge in court. We cannot help asking that how much is the persuasive effect of such rhetorical strategy and stereotyped propaganda mode?

Different from the descriptions of the National Model Judges who work overtime actively and reduce personal leisure time extremely, Zuo Weimin’s observations on the grass-roots judges showed that the judges of the criminal court followed the routine of working hours in 2015 and worked overtime rarely and they admitted that working overtime was unfair to their families; although they worked overtime in 2016, it was mainly due to the dramatic increase in the number of drunk driving cases and there was a judge going on maternity leave; even if the purpose of the judge who was willing to work overtime was to avoid the peak of commuting. It can be seen that the real judges of China do not always work overtime, they follow the routine of working hours most of the time and even if they work overtime because of various complicated reasons, they do not devote the most of their personal time to work.

In general, the stereotyped formulaic propaganda mode tends to shape judges into hard-working labor models. The application of the stereotyped propaganda routines that have been formed in the past has reduced the information costs of persuading the masses, but it also makes the publicity of model judges lose their meaning. To continue using the old-fashioned propaganda mode without thinking is just to produce standardized case-handling machines rather than professional modern judges. In the future, propaganda activities of the model judges should strive to break the stereotyped formulaic propaganda mode and open up new ways to create professional modern judges.


D. Explore the Rehire Mechanism for Excellent Retired Judges


The National Model Judges are a valuable wealth of the court system. However, at present, the courts of China have not used them effectively. The current statutory retirement age is 60 years for men and 55 years for women. A considerable number of judges are close to the retirement age when they receive the National Model Judges honorary titles, which makes the time of serving the courts become short relatively. Although the average age of model judges in 2007, 2011 and 2015 was around 44.5 years old, some of them were close to retirement age when they were commended. Among the model judges who were commended in 2015, except for 10 judges that we could not find their age information, 13 judges were over 50 years old when they actually obtained the honorary title, accounting for 22.03 percent; for the National Model Judges in the group of 2011, 2007 and 2003, the proportions of judges who were over 50 years old when they actually obtained the honorary title were 20.69 percent, 36.21 percent and 16.07 percent respectively. In general, a considerable number of judges were close to retirement age when they received the honorary title. Compared with other judges who received this honor in their forties and even thirties, the National Model Judges over 50 could only serve the court system for a relatively short time, which reduced their value for the courts.

Retirement means the waste of human resources. The current statutory retirement age for men and women is relatively young. Delaying the retirement age of judge appropriately is a good way to make full use of judges. However, the current statutory retirement age of judges maybe lasts for a long time. If the judge’s retirement age cannot be widely extended, how to make use of the judges, especially the retired National Model Judges, is a question that must be considered in the incentive mechanism for judges. A representative practice in the court system is to rehire the retired judges by the original court to engage in mediation work. However, the operation of rehiring the retired judges is not universal. According to the statistics, among the 360 National Model Judges, there are only 8 retired National Model Judges being rehired by their original working courts. There are very few judges rehired by the original courts after retirement and the work of rehired judges mostly is mediation. The retired judges who are rehired after retirement cannot be engaged in trials are a waste of human resource and the valuable experience of judges. In the current situation where it is difficult or unrealistic to implement tenured judges, it is possible to explore the rehire mechanism for excellent retired judges such as the retired National Model Judges and give them trial qualifications so that these outstanding judges can continue to engage in trial business.


VI. WHERE ARE THE RESIDENT CADRES IN THE CREATION OF THE NATIONAL MODEL JUDGES?


To realize the function of models effectively, we must rely on the power of the institution to make the judicial honor system really play an important role in the incentive mechanism for the court staff. Back to our original question: the SPC has conferred 360 National Model Judges, but why are there very few model judges that are remembered by the public? The answer given above is that the National Model Judges shaped by the stereotyped formulaic propaganda mode have always been labor models, but not professional modern judges. From the historical perspective, in the sense of the historical tradition of the Party’s creation of labor models, we find that it is because the model production mechanism has changed.

Hundreds of resident cadres fanned out across villages of China in the 1950s. This practice, which ranged in duration from a few months to a year, was called resident, literally ‘to squat in a spot.’ Resident cadres were instructed to go to the fields to work with local people, eat and sleep in their homes, identify potential women leaders, convince them to take up leadership roles. These resident cadres identified exceptional women as labor models, such as tenacious cotton-growing heroines, skilled farmers and dedicated midwives. Resident cadres identified potential leaders, cajoled them into taking up leadership roles, trained them in the necessary skills, such as speaking in public explaining policies, holding people’s attention, firing their enthusiasm and answering letters from the masses, supported them if they met opposition, and recommended them for state recognition. Labor models were to be both trained and discovered by resident cadres, and resident cadres were the implied agents in the creation of labor models, the bridge between the labor models and the Party leaders. So, where are the resident cadres in the creation of the National Model Judges?

The resident cadres are the direct channel to contact the top and the grassroots. In fact, resident cadres discovered, cultivated and created labor models and it was a bottom-up model production mechanism. Nowadays, the production process of the National Model Judges is exactly the opposite: the SPC issued a notice to the provincial courts to select the candidate of National Model Judges and the provincial courts issued the notice to the grass-roots courts within their jurisdiction; the grass-roots courts reported the candidates to their upper courts according to the quotas and conditions, and each level of the court reviews the candidates and reports it to the higher level courts, and finally, the SPC will review the list of candidates for publicity, which is a top-down model production mechanism. The top-down production mechanism of model judges makes the senior officials of the SPC not have the true information of the candidates. The authenticity of these models and their personal abilities are realized by the principle of joint liability, which is ‘the one who recommended models is responsible for the authenticity of the models’. In practice, the senior judges of courts interviewed the candidates mainly by their political department, which still cannot make sure the authenticity of the judge models. Compared with the history of creating the labor models of cotton-growing in the last century, the top-down production mechanism of the National Model Judges also lacks the role of resident cadres who identified potential leaders, cajoled them into taking up leadership roles, trained them in the necessary skills, supported them if they met opposition, recommended them for state recognition and so on. The past experience of creating labor models has useful implications for how we create model judges and improve the incentive mechanism for judges. To apply the experience of how the resident cadres created labor models to the process of creating model judges will be a good choice.


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