As we can see in the United States, the legal world in changing rapidly. There are more demands on lawyers, lower numbers of law students, and people wanting more fair trials. The judicial system is seeing a lot of changes worldwide as well. For instance, China has seen a large number of judges leaving their careers.
For example, senior judge, Liu Shibi, resigned from his position last month after 20 years with a simple message on his social media site. In one part of his announcement, he stated, “I don’t know when I started to feel less and less able to handle cases.”
Lately, the number of judges in China leaving their positions is rapidly growing. It is said they are leaving in alarming numbers due to the stress from heavy caseloads, low job standards, bad salaries, and interference from the government.
According to a Chinese newspaper in Shanghai, an average of 67 judges have resigned annually since 2009. In addition, the number of judges hired since 2007 has not moved much, and has stayed relatively stagnant for the past 7 years. However, the number of cases being brought to court has significantly risen almost 50%. This means more work for a smaller number of judges, and this trend does not seem to be slowing down.
Most Chinese judges enter the bench not long after finishing law school, and clerking for a couple years. They then take on a position with the average salary being 50,000 to 70,000 yuan, or $8,100 to $11,430, annually. In the United States, the average judge receives $146,000 to $200,000 annually. In light, political leaders are expected to endorse a program that allows judges to have more power over their trials, and raise their salaries.
However, a Western-style legal system is not expected to emerge. Courts are very weak in the governmental branches of China in comparison to other judicial systems around the world. Judges are expected to behave like all other government officials, and not treated as a separate group with “holy” influence or higher regard than other workers of the government. There is hope that after meetings with court officials, improvement of judge careers will persuade them to keep their jobs, and influence more young professionals to pursue judge career paths.
In the coming years, we will see how China will change to keep its judges content and want to stay in the court system.
Do you think there could be a wave of judges quitting in the United States? How else do you think a judge’s career could be improved?