A fundamental principle underpinning the rule of law is that courts should provide written reasons for their decisions. This is important in all jurisdictions, including common law ones, where case law or judge-made law is a source of law. This column has previously noted that judges in common law jurisdictions must provide detailed reasons for their decisions so that the law can be understood as clearly as possible. Further, the reasons must be accurately recorded in law reports made available to the public so that other courts, lawyers and society generally can review decisions and find out about the law [see China Business Law Journal volume 3, issue 2: “Binding or persuasive?”].
This article discusses the history and use of law reports in common law jurisdictions and outlines the legislative basis on which courts provide written reasons in mainland China.
A former partner of Linklaters Shanghai, Andrew Godwin teaches law at Melbourne Law School in Australia, where he is an associate director of its Asian Law Centre. Andrew Godwin is currently on secondment to the ALRC as Special Counsel to assist with its inquiry into corporations and financial services regulation. Andrew’s new book is a compilation of China Business Law Journal’s popular Lexicon series, entitled China Lexicon: Defining and translating legal terms. The book is published by Vantage Asia and available at www.vantageasia.com