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Restricting Judges from Becoming Lawyers May Not Help Curb Corruption

The growing workload, low income and low status are major problems for China's judges, but stopping them becoming lawyers might not be the solution

By Han Bingbin Updated Oct.13

China’s latest anti-corruption move to restrict judges from taking up posts in law firms after resignation may fail to achieve the desired objective, said Liu Sida, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, in an interview with business news portal Caixin.com.  

In a response to the central government’s regulation of civil servants’ professional practices after leaving public posts, according to Caixin.com, the Supreme People’s Court has recently proposed more restrictive conditions regarding the court’s judges, judicial support staff and judicial administration personnel wanting to take up posts as consultants and partners in law firms after resignation.  

The regulation may have an influence over many judges’ career planning, Liu said. Becoming lawyers after resigning as a judge has been a popular career path of mid-level staff in the judicial system, the scholar said, but the document has now erected a barricade.   

Liu said that the restriction may also have something to do with the growing number of judges who quit their jobs to seek opportunities elsewhere. He believes the top court’s move has signaled a possibility for the restriction to be practiced nationwide at different levels of courts.  

A growing workload, relatively low income and unfulfilling social reputation are major problems that burden many Chinese judges, according to the scholar. Lawyers, on the other hand, have seen both their income and social status grow tremendously in the past decade, he said, adding that experience in the judicial system has often allowed many judges to easily change their career tracks.   

Liu believes the roost cause of corruption lies in the courts rather than law firms. Therefore, he said, restricting judges from becoming lawyers won’t necessarily help to effectively curb corruption.