Introduction

The new Law on the Organisation of People's Courts – which the National Assembly adopted on November 24 2014 – came into force on June 1 2015. National decrees and circulars implementing the law have also been prepared.

The law aims to provide a detailed explanation of the functions, duties and powers of the people's courts. This update highlights the important changes in the hierarchical structure, duties and powers of the Supreme People's Court.

Structural modifications

Previously, three levels of people's court existed:

  • district people's courts;
  • provincial people's courts; and
  • the Supreme People's Court.

Under Article 3 of the new law, there are now four adjudicating levels of people's court:

  • district people's courts;
  • provincial people's courts;
  • superior people's courts; and
  • the Supreme People's Court.

The introduction of superior people's courts has altered the duties and powers of the other people's courts.

Modified powers and duties

Under the new law, the Supreme People's Court consists only of judicial councils (between 13 and 17 members, including the chief justice, deputy chief justices and other judges), an assisting apparatus and training institutions. In accordance with the new law, the Supreme People's Court no longer contains specialised and appellate benches; thus, the court will no longer conduct appellate trials.

The Supreme People's Court has been entrusted with four significant powers (Article 20 of the new law):

  • to supervise the adjudicating work of other courts;
  • to assess the adjudicating practices of other courts and ensure that they implement a uniform application of law;
  • to manage the other people's courts organisationally and ensure that they are independent from one another; and
  • to recommend laws and resolutions to the National Assembly in accordance with the law.

Due to the amendments to the powers of the Supreme People's Court, the cassation and reopening of decisions from its judicial bench will take place immediately and be of significant importance.

The new superior people's courts will be responsible for conducting appellate trials in which first-instance judgments or decisions from provincial people's courts which have not yet taken legal effect are appealed or protested against in accordance with the procedural law. Further, the superior people's courts will also be responsible for conducting trials according to cassation and reopening procedures for cases in which first-instance judgments or decisions from provincial or district people's courts (or equivalent authorities within a territorial jurisdiction) which have taken legal effect are protested against in accordance with the procedural law.

Provincial people's courts can no longer conduct cassation trials, as those duties have been allocated to the superior people's courts. No other changes have been made to the provincial courts' duties.

Plan to apply new law

In order to implement the new law, the National Assembly Standing Committee (NASC) issued Resolution 81/2014/QH13 on November 24 2014. Resolution 81 provides further clarifications regarding the new adjudication structure.

The chief justice of the Supreme People's Court has prepared the courts and personnel for the new adjudication structure (Article 1.1 of Resolution 81). The judicial council of the Supreme People's Court must transfer its duties and powers in accordance with the new law (Article 2.1 of Resolution 81).

In its May 14 2015 meeting, the NASC established three main superior people's courts in Ha Noi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, based on the existing appellate courts of the Supreme People's Court. This will ensure the adaptability (including facilities and personnel) of the Supreme People's Court under the new law.

For further information on this topic please contact Khoi Tran at LNT & Partners by telephone (+84 8 3821 2357) or email (khoi.tran@lntpartners.com) The LNT & Partners website can be accessed at www.lntpartners.com.

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