Monday, February 11, 2013

Comparing Notes with a Judge from China

A few days ago Judge Caiyan Yan from China visited the Ohio Supreme Court. Judge Yan is a member of the Higher People’s Court in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province approximately 915 miles southwest of Beijing.

Judge Yan observed three oral arguments at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center on February 5. Two days later, I welcomed her in my chambers for an informal conversation about the similarities and differences in our judicial systems. She had many questions about what she observed here at the Supreme Court of Ohio and the other courts she had visited throughout her stay in the United States.

We talked for about an hour through the help of an interpreter. Both of us had questions for the other about what it was like to serve as a judge in our country.

Judge Yan has served on the Higher People’s Court since 2005, after she received her master’s degree in law from Wuhan University. Her primary judicial role is to review administrative law and procedural matters for the court.

Judge Yan was very interested in discussing dispute resolution because she oversees the resolution of disputes between bureaucracies. She said that in China, officials encourage judges to use mediation and other similar means to resolve civil disputes. I expressed my view: Mediation is successful when both parties leave the table equally unhappy with an agreement because that means they each had to compromise on strongly held positions.

Judge Yan also was interested in hearing about cases when public figures were involved. I stressed that officials here in the states do not receive special consideration: judges use the same rules for litigants whether they are rich or poor. We strive for equal justice under the law.

I enjoyed spending time with Judge Yan, having the opportunity to exchange ideas. Perhaps we will have the chance to meet again.  She, her husband, and their 8-year-old daughter will return to China at the end of the month.

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