Proposal on Publicity Rules in Courts Causes Uproar
(Beijing) – Lawyers say a draft law to clamp down on publicity in court cases goes too far in attempting to restrict information from the public.
A recent judicial proposal submitted July 31 as a draft for comment to the Supreme People's Court seeks to prevent lawyers from reporting information about pending cases by audio, video, photo or email. The proposal states that the penalty for violating this rule should be a suspension of the lawyer's license for legal practice of six to 12 months.
"The court has overstepped its rights," said Beijing-based lawyer Mao Lixin on his microblogging account. Mao said not allowing lawyers to appear in court as a legal representative jeopardizes the lawyer's right to serve their defendant.
The proposal is an interpretation of court discipline rule stipulated in Criminal Procedure Law, which was issued in 1996 and revised in 2012. The current law states that the presiding judge can take action to punish lawyer misconduct in courts, but it does not allow judges to ban lawyers from appearing in court.
In recent years, lawyers have made headlines for generating public debate about court cases through social networking and other forms of media.
Last September, six lawyers issued live microblogging updates while observing courtroom proceedings of a case involving four other lawyers accused of perjury in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"To some extent, limiting the ability of lawyers to share information on pending cases is reasonable," Chen Lei, law professor at Renmin University of China, told Southern Metropolis Daily, "However, lawyers should have some flexibility and penalties should be proportional."
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