On November 26, 2010, the Supreme People’s Court of China promulgated a new provision stating that the Court would release selected cases as part of a new category of “guiding cases”. It was intended that other courts would refer to these “guiding cases” when deciding similarly situated cases. While not exactly equivalent to binding precedent, many legal practitioners who follow Chinese law believe that these cases will be given similar weight in future cases.
Last week, Stanford Law School initiated a program called the China Guiding Cases Project to collect and provide online access to both Chinese-language and English-language versions of these cases promptly after their release. The goal of the project according to its website is “to advance knowledge and understanding of Chinese law and to enable judges and legal experts both inside and outside of China to contribute to the evolution of Chinese case law through ongoing dialogue on “guiding cases” (指导性案例) released by China’s Supreme People’s Court”. Currently the site provides access to the four guiding cases that have been released to date in both Chinese and English as well as Chinese and English versions of the original November 26, 2010 provision that announced the new concept of “guiding cases”. The project’s Why Guiding Cases Matter page also includes quotes from legal experts and judges on the importance of these “guiding cases” and the site will include additional expert commentary in the future. As new “guiding cases” are released, they will also be added to the website and there are plans in place to offer “Question and Answer” sessions in the future as well. The China Guiding Cases Project will be an important resource for anyone interested in keeping up with future developments in this new concept in Chinese law.