Chinese Judges Observe American Law in Action

Winter 2010

For roughly four weeks this past summer, Columbia Law School helped advance the international legal education of 30 Chinese judges by way of its newly launched Chinese Judges Legal Training Program.

For many of these judges-turned-students, the month abroad marked their first visit to the United States, and the Law School filled that time with intensive academic study, court visits, and trips to tourist destinations around New York City.

The new initiative, run by the Law School’s Office of International Programs, is a voluntary part of the one-year LL.M. curriculum sponsored by the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China at the City University of Hong Kong.

Throughout their visit, the judges took courses in civil procedure, constitutional law, and torts taught by Law School Professors Suzanne Goldberg, Jamal Greene, and Benjamin L. Liebman, respectively. The students also observed proceedings in New York criminal and civil courts and visited the U.S. Supreme Court in
Washington, D.C.

“My court is very lucky to grasp the chance to send me here to get more knowledge and more experience in the American common law system,” said Tian Changqi, who has been a maritime court judge in Guangzhou, the capital of China’s Guangdong Province, for the past 11 years. Tian said his court often deals with international and common law matters, so his training in the U.S. legal system will prove a valuable asset when he returns home.

For Huang Rui, a judge who has served in Guangxi Province for 10 years, time spent at the Law School offered her some career perspective. “It seems to me that American judges sincerely believe that they’re working for the good of their society,” she said. “Sometimes we might be concerned more about our own career than our social responsibility. That’s what we should learn from U.S. judges: to care more about our responsibility instead of a personal career.”