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The China Law Center Co-Hosts Workshop on Small Claims Procedures

The China Law Center co-sponsored a Workshop on Small Claims Procedures with Tsinghua University School of Law on May 19 and 20, 2007.  The workshop, which was held in Beijing, is the latest in a series of Center projects and exchanges designed to build judicial capacity and promote the fair resolution of disputes in China.

U.S. and Chinese judges and legal scholars discuss small claims procedures at Tsinghua University Law School.

With the number of civil lawsuits in China rising quickly and Chinese courts under increasing political pressure to address social conflict effectively, Chinese judges and legal scholars are actively exploring the establishment of a small claims system.  China’s Civil Procedure Law contains provisions on summary procedure, but the current procedure remains too complicated to resolve small disputes efficiently in practice.  To address this issue, the Supreme People’s Court’s recent Five-Year Reform Program set as a goal the “construction of an expedited case decision procedure on the basis of summary civil procedures, and regularization of institutions, operational procedures, trial procedures, and forms, etc. for the handling of small claims.”

The Beijing workshop brought together over twenty-five Chinese experts and officials, including representatives of the Supreme People’s Court, basic court judges, leading civil procedure scholars, and other key judicial officials.  Judge Fern Fisher, head of the New York Small Claims Court, one of the busiest and most innovative small claims courts in the United States, led a foreign expert team that included Judge Mary Thornton House of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Beryl Blaustone, a mediation expert from the City University of New York Law School, and Center Director Paul Gewirtz.

During the two-day workshop, participants engaged in a spirited discussion of China’s current summary procedure, basic small claims procedures in New York and Los Angeles, and small claims issues such as simplified filings, enforcement methods, the use of non-judicial personnel as arbitrators and mediators, and filing fees.  The second day of the workshop focused on prospects for the establishment of a small claims system in China.  Professor Cai Dingjian, a leading Chinese law professor who has filed small claims cases in both New York and Singapore, advocated strongly for a small claims system in China.  Along with Dean Wang Chenguang of Tsinghua University Law School and other participants, he expressed hope that China could launch a new round of pilot programs in the near future that would promote the development of such a system. 

For Chinese coverage of the workshop and a discussion of efforts to reform China’s simplified procedures, see the People’s Court Daily.