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Guiding Opinions on Strengthening Searches for Similar Cases to Unify the Application of Law (Provisional)

  【Issuing Body】Supreme People's Court
  【Issuance Number】
  【Date of Issue】2020-07-26
  【Effective Date】2020-07-31
  【Expiration Date】
  【Document Type】Policy reference
  【Document Source】

The following Opinions on the efforts of the people's courts to search similar cases are put forward to unify the application of law, increase judicial credibility, and integrate the actual conditions of trial work.

I. "Similar Cases" as used in these opinions refers to cases that have already been effectively ruled upon by the people's courts that are similar to the pending case in terms of the basic facts, points of contention, issues of application of law, and other areas.

II. In any of the following situations, people's courts that are hearing cases shall conduct a search for similar cases:

(1) The case will be submitted to a professional (presiding) judges conference or the adjudication committee for discussion;

(2) There is a lack of clear rules for judgment rules or the uniform rules for judgment have not yet been formed;

(3) The court president or division chief requests That a search for similar cases be conducted based on their authority to oversee judgments;

(4) Other situations requiring that a search for similar cases be conducted.

3. The case-handling judge is to conduct the search for similar cases by using the China Judgments Online site, Database of Chinese Trial Cases, and other databases, and is to be responsible for the veracity and accuracy of the search.

IV. The scope of searches for similar cases ordinarily includes:

(1) Guiding Cases published by the Supreme People's Court;

(2) Example cases and cases with effective judgements public by the Supreme People's Court.

(3) Reference Cases and cases with effective judgments published by the High Court of that province (autonomous region, directly-governed municipality);

(4) Cases with effective judgments from the people's court at the level above or of that court.

Except for guiding cases, priority is to be given to case examples and other cases from the preceding 3 years, and where similar cases have previously been successfully found, it is not necessary to conduct a search again.

V. Searches for similar cases may employ methods such as key-word searching, searching cases by legal provision, or case relevance searching.

VI. The case-handling judge shall compare and contrast the pending case and the search results to determine whether they are similar cases.

VII. In cases for which these Opinions provide a search for similar cases shall be conducted, the active judge shall explain the search during the collegial bench deliberations, professional (presiding) judges committee discussions, and in the trial report, or draft a special report on the search for similar cases and file it for future reference along with the case file.

VIII. Explanations or reports on searches for similar cases shall be objective, comprehensive, and accurate, and include content such as the searching entity, the search time, platform, methods, and results, the key points of the similar cases and points of contention in the pending case, etc., and an analysis and explanation of whether the cases were references or how they were utilized.

IX. Where the similar cases that are found are guiding cases, the people's courts shall refer to them in making a judgment, except where there is a conflict with new laws, administrative regulations, or judicial interpretations, or they have been replaced by new guiding cases.

Where other similar cases are found, people's courts may consider them in future judgments.

X. Where public prosecution organs, case parties and their defenders or agents ad item, or others submit guiding cases as the grounds for prosecution or defense, the people's courts shall respond and explain whether it should be considered in the reasoning section of the judgment documents; and where other cases are submitted as the grounds for the prosecution or defense, the people's court may respond through means such as judges' elucidatory

XI. Where there is an inconsistency in similar cases' application of laws, the people's courts may consider factors such as the level of people's court, time of the judgment, and whether it was deliberated by the adjudication committee, to resolve the discrepancy in application of law through disambiguation mechanisms in accordance with the "Supreme People's Court's Implementation Measures for the Establishment of Disambiguation Measures in the Application of Law."

XII. Each level of people's court shall actively promote efforts on searches for similar cases, strengthening technical research and training on applications, to increase the use of information technology and precision in promoting cases.

All High People's Courts shall fully utilize modern information technology, establishing case example databases to construct a convenient and sound foundation for the uniformity and authority of the national case judgment database.

XIII. All levels of people's courts shall periodically aggregate and organize the circumstances of similar case searches, and disclose this in that court or to the courts in that jurisdictional region in a set form to provide judges with cases references and report it to the trial management department of the people's court at the level above for recording.

XIV. These Opinions are to take effect on July 31, 2020.

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