Commentary on Jerome A. Cohen, “A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System: Talented Judges and Lawyers are Leaving the Profession, as Ideology Continues to Trump the Rule of Law”

Jerome Cohen, Professor of Law at New York University, one of the great scholars of China in the United States, has recently produced a marvelous essay “A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System: Talented Judges and Lawyers are Leaving the Profession, as Ideology Continues to Trump the Rule of Law,” Foreign Policy (February 22, 2016). FLIA experts shared their comments on this essay.

Larry Backer:

I very much enjoyed and learned much from reading Jerome A. Cohen, “A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System: Talented Judges and Lawyers are Leaving the Profession, as Ideology Continues to Trump the Rule of Law,” Foreign Policy February 22, 2016. The essay is rich with insight that is both important and worthy of serious discussion. I take this opportunity to briefly engage with some of the useful insights elaborated in that essay. To that end I will focus on what for me were key elements in the points made and insights drawn from the essay.  Professor Cohen’s excellent essay provides a useful springboard for an inside-out analysis of the crisis he examines from the outside in.  Professor Cohen’s analysis is useful as well for illustrating the important differences that arise through the mere choice of analytic methods. But it is useful as well for suggesting similarities.  Both approaches arrive at similar conclusions. Both acknowledge roughly similar outlines of issues that suggest gaps between truth and fact that suggest remaining deficiencies of legal implementation.  Yet these similarities in ending points are reached from substantially different frameworks; and those differences are critically important for considering the best path toward reform, that is for the substance and methodologies, for the scope and approach, to reform that may be suitably considered in the local context. It also suggests that too exclusive a reliance on any one limits the ability to enrich understanding.  Lastly, the differences in analytical approach also suggests the value of cultivating sensitivity to these differences not just in the analysis of China but of the United States as well…    Continue Reading

 

Flora Sapio:

It is always difficult to add something new to any essay written by Jerome Cohen. I still have a vivid memory of the day when – as a student in Italy – I accidentally found The Criminal Process in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–63: An Introduction in the academic library where I used to work. Many years later, I would be invited to visit New York University School of Law, where I spent four fantastic and extremely enlightening weeks giving talks, and doing research side by side with the greatest names in the field of China Law Studies…    Continue Reading

 

Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt:

In his essay titled “A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System,” Jerome A. Cohen paints a bleak picture of the Chinese legal system. The courts “are full of corruption” and “political interference is pronounced.” However, “there is discreet, if passive, resistance.” According to Cohen, legal professionals want to “inhabit a real legal system,” thus taking “legal reforms seriously”. While this dichotomy between legal professionals and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is to some extent a dim reality, I take issue with Cohen’s underlying assumption that the principle aim of a legal system is to be neutral and independent. While laudable, this entry point clouds an assessment of where the legal system is moving because it neglects the fundamental role of the political power organizing it: the CCP…    Continue Reading

 

Shaoming Zhu:

Professor Jerome Cohen’s recent essay, “A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System,” has garnered much attention in academia. It is my honor to join the discussion on this essay. In my opinion, there are three key themes in this essay: judicial reform, legal professionals, and the CCP. Prof. Cohen suggests that there is general dissatisfaction with judicial reform efforts among legal professionals, especially judges. It has only been one year since the “Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of the People’s Courts” was released. Why is it, then, that “many judges have recently resigned in order to find other work?” To answer this question, we must examine the Quota System…    Continue Reading