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2018-01-31 12:14:11

A court in central China drafted two judgments for one case and then posted the wrong one online, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Tuesday.

The lawsuit in question was filed by a real estate company in Hubei province hoping to recover back rent from a delinquent tenant. In March 2017, the intermediate people’s court in Shiyan ruled that the defendant, surnamed Chen, was not obligated to pay the plaintiff, Shiyan Linli Estate Co. Ltd., the 120,000 yuan ($19,000) he was being sued for. That verdict document was uploaded on China Judgments Online, a comprehensive database of legal decisions.

Unsatisfied with the court’s verdict, Linli filed an appeal in May, but a second decision given in August upheld the original verdict: Chen would pay nothing.

But on Nov. 30, the judge presiding over the appeal uploaded a rather different judgment document — one that said Chen owed Linli 30,000 yuan.

Shang Yunsheng, the judge, told The Paper that after Linli’s appeal, he had discussed his verdict with other court officials and decided that Chen did in fact bear some responsibility to remunerate the property agency. But upon further consultation with the court’s judicial committee — a formal body of esteemed judges — he was persuaded to stick to his guns and uphold the first verdict. This required a second judgment document to be drafted. But when it came time to post the document to China Judgments Online, Shang selected the wrong version.

“I really should have deleted the first judgment document,” Shang said. Both had the same reference number, he said, which could have caused the confusion.

When the court realized the mistake on Dec. 27 — nearly a month later — it immediately withdrew the incorrect judgment and uploaded the correct document.

A similar case happened the previous year in Henan, another province of central China. According to China National Radio (CNR), a court in Luyi County produced two different judgments for the same case in December 2016. Both documents had the same date and reference number. When CNR’s reporter attempted to conduct an interview outside the courthouse, security guards intervened and physically prevented him from doing so. The court’s president, Qi Meiying, later apologized for the “improper” handling of the entire situation.

Tian Zhenxing, a spokesman for the Luyi court, also admitted the error. “In the course of uploading the judicial documents, the person responsible selected the draft of the judgment, leading to a discrepancy between the online verdict and the actual verdict,” Tian told CNR.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A gavel at the intermediate people’s court in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Nov. 30, 2017. Yang Guang/VCG)