▍Introduction to the Grand Chamber
In order to enhance the courts of final appeals’ ability for unified interpretation of statutes, the Judicial Yuan has promoted the establishment of the Grand Chamber system. The Grand Chamber system of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court was officially launched on July 4, 2019. With it, our judicial system entered a new chapter in its development. In the future, methods of legal interpretation of the statute will more effectively conform to the essence of judicial authority. After the Grand Chamber system’s full implementation, the selection of precedents and the system of review resolution of the divisions conference will also be abolished.
Compared with the precedence and review resolution system, the Grand Chamber must be open to the public, hold oral arguments, and enable prosecutors and litigants’ counsels and even experts and scholars to participate and express their opinions. When this unified legal interpretation process is examined by the public, and the varied viewpoints present in society have the opportunity to be heard in the court system and to influence judges, it will enhance the willingness of people to trust in judicial decisions as being thorough and unshielded from scrutiny.
The following is a brief introduction:
▍1. Hearing Scope of the Grand Chamber
The scope of the Grand Chamber encompasses only the adjudication of conflicts of interpretation of statues; it does not include the final judgement of the submitted case in question.
▍2. Organization of the Grand Chamber
The Grand Chamber is an internal functional task establishment of the Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court. Its mission is to serve as the judicial mechanism through which a unified opinion is achieved when there are conflicts of interpretation of statues. Judicial decisions undertaken by the Grand Chamber are a part of the litigation process of the final appeal and are adjudicated via panel discussion.
The panels of the Civil Grand Chamber and Criminal Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court are each composed of 11 members. Among them is one presiding judge, one appointed member from the Ruling Request Panel, and nine elected members.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or his designated division-chief justice shall be the presiding judge of the Civil Grand Chamber or Criminal Grand Chamber (depending on the type of the cases). Nine members and their alternates shall be elected by secret ballot by a meeting of the Supreme Court justices. The candidates who are justices from civil and criminal divisions receiving the most votes in the meeting will become the members of the Grand Chamber. At least one justice from each division shall be chosen to become a member of the Grand Chamber.
The Supreme Administrative Court’s Grand Chamber panel shall be composed of nine members. Among them is one presiding judge, one appointed member from the Ruling Request Panel, and seven elected members. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court shall be the presiding judge of the Grand Chamber. Seven members and their alternates shall be elected by secret ballot by a meeting of the Supreme Administrative Court justices. The candidates receiving the most votes in the meeting will become the members of the Grand Chamber. At least one justice from each division shall be chosen to become a member of the Grand Chamber.
According to regulations provided in Article 51-7, paragraphs 1, 7 to 9 of the Court Organic Act and Article 15-7, paragraphs 1, 7 to 9 of the Administrative Court Organization Act, the Grand Chamber presiding judge appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the elected members of the Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court shall serve for a term of two years; except for the original member's absence caused by specific circumstances(such as recusal or on leave), alternate members assuming positions shall serve for the duration of the original member’s term.
▍3. Grand Chamber Procedure
The Grand Court procedure is part of the litigation process of the final appeal and is differentiated based on civil, criminal, and administrative litigation procedures.
The most important function of the Grand Court is to unify the interpretation of statutes. In order to fully communicate and exchange various legal opinions, to strengthen the rights of related parties to have their opinions heard, and to increase transparency within the judiciary to promote public trust, both Article 51-8 paragraph 1 of the Court Organic Act and Article 15-8 paragraph 1 of the Administrative Court Organization Act provide that all conflicts of interpretation of statues shall be adjudicated in the Grand Chamber, with accompanying oral arguments; therefore, the Grand Court’s legal interpretive process will incorporate a participatory element of the related persons in the case.
Disputes adjudicated in the Grand Chamber contain a high degree of expertise, importance, and public benefit. In order to combine legal theory and practice, to enable the Grand Chamber to make good use of the results of academic research, and to provide academic research opportunities for substantive verification, Article 51-8 paragraph 4 of the Court Organic Act (Article 15-8 paragraph 4 of the Administrative Court Organization Act) provides that when the Grand Chamber deems it necessary, the Grand Chamber may request experts/scholars to state their opinions regarding the statute ex officio or upon formal request by the litigants, their representatives, or their legal defense counsel. The opinions may be stated in writing or via oral argument at the venue.
The unified interpretation of the Grand Chamber has far-reaching influence. Upon the end of Grand Chamber argument, the legal opinions should be in writing, and the interpretation of the statue shall be recorded comprehensively and definitively recorded in the main context. The Chamber shall clearly detail the reasons behind the decisions to adopt certain legal interpretations and to not adopt others (Article 51-9 paragraph 1 of the Court Organic Act; Article 15-9 paragraph 1 of the Administrative Court Organization Act) in the interest of prudence.
▍4. Effectiveness of Grand Chamber Rulings
Article 51-10 of the Court Organic Act and Article 15-10 of the Administrative Court Organization Act stipulates that Grand Chamber rulings are binding to the case originally submitted to the Ruling Request Panel. That is to say, once the Grand Chamber has ruled, the Ruling Request Panel shall then issue a final judgement on the case in question based on the related legal opinions expressed in the Grand Chamber’s ruling.
▍5. How the Grand Chamber Unifies Legal Opinions
The Grand Chamber system’s aim is to construct, through the binding force of a single case as well as the duty of hearing different legal interpretations, vertical and horizontal binding forces within the statute to achieve unified legal opinions.
The ruling on a given legal dispute by the Grand Chamber is clearly binding on the case originally submitted to it by the Ruling Request Panel. The Ruling Request Panel must issue a final judgment on the case based on the legal opinion issued by the Grand Chamber (Article 51-10 of the Court Organic Act; Article 15-10 of the Administrative Court Organization Act). This regulation is the core operation of the “Grand Chamber system”. Due to the legal regulation that the Ruling Request Panel abide by the legal opinion of the Grand Chamber, rather than treating it merely as a reference, the presiding judge ruling according to the statute shall incorporate the legal opinion of the Grand Chamber, as it has binding force on the case.
According to the above regulations, the legal opinion issued by the Grand Chamber is binding only to the case submitted to it by the Ruling Request Panel. After all, the Grand Chamber is only a part of the third-instance appeal process. The ruling of the Grand Chamber is based on an exercise of judicial authority and is a legal opinion representing a connection between the participation of the related litigants and the concrete facts of a specific case. The ruling (regarding the specific case and the litigants) is only pertinent to that specific submitted case and cannot be applied to other cases. This is also due to the Grand Chamber system functioning based on judicial power. The aforementioned character of the Grand Chamber is entirely different from the selection of precedents and the review resolution of the divisions conference, which function based on judicial administrative power and have binding force on other cases.
As for the “Grand Chamber system”, how are legal opinions unified? Another key point is the “statutory ruling request obligation” of Article 51-2 paragraph 1 of the Court Organic Act (Article 15-2 paragraph 1 of the Administrative Court Organization Act). The Ruling Request Panel shall use the legal opinion issued by the Grand Chamber to issue its definitive, final judgment, which then has the character of “former adjudication” of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. Unless each adjudication division intends to express legal opinions different from the former adjudication or to restart the inquiry and ruling request process to the Grand Chamber, the same opinion as the former adjudication should be adopted. This mechanism ensures the horizontal consistency of legal opinions between the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. Through the appeals system, the lower courts should also adopt and apply the unified legal opinions, thus achieving vertical consistency.
- Release Date : 2019-11-13
- Update : 2023-02-09