MR. ROTHSTEIN: Thank you, Jane. Are there any questions?
JOHN ZULACK, ESQ. (Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer LLP): I found that a fascinating presentation. Do you think that is an observation that can be generally asked in many countries, for instance, China? There is a whole Confucian system of courts, where you go to administrators and they have justice, and yet we come in and say there's no legal system, there's no rule of law. Aren't we provincial in our rebuke of other countries when we say that they don't have any laws and they don't abide by the rule of law?
PROF. BURBANK: Yes, I would not hesitate to generalize what I've said to our understanding of other countries in the world. In fact, from my perspective — and perhaps Bill and Katharina will say more about this — it's ours that's quite the outlier system. And hence we could be engaging in a futile effort to impose this term “rule of law” in accord with our own understanding. Maybe the others have something to say about this.
PROFESSOR KATHARINA PISTOR: Yes, in China, Madeleine Zelin, who teaches in the History Department and Asia Studies at Columbia, has just written a book where she also went into the archives and looked at litigation in imperial China and found something very close to what Professor Burbank is saying. The magistrate courts were actively used, and people used them for dispute resolution in the former system. It wasn't only administrative, top-down, but also horizontal dispute resolution in those courts. So there's much more there than meets the eye, basically.
GARY M. KELLY, ESQ. (CAPMEX, Vienna, Austria, for the Asian Development Bank): Thank you for your presentation. In your research and in the research of your colleague in Madison, is there any suggestion that the administration of justice was viewed as a national enterprise as opposed to a local one? Were there substantial national resources committed to this exercise, or was it primarily local? Could you elaborate on that?
PROF. BURBANK: I'm beginning a new project, which actually investigates the linkages of local activity to the top and looks at what I call the “law in the middle,” that is, appeals courts and other supervisory institutions. The best evidence that this was a state enterprise is that people could appeal from these lower-level courts, from almost all of them. They went up into a kind of county level, then they could go to the governor's office, then they could appeal all the way to the Senate. Litigants were very familiar with that. In fact, one of the best ways to trace some of these cases is to find them at the top and look down to the bottom. I think that is the best evidence for people's understanding that this was part of a state enterprise.
VITALY ZURKOVSKY, ESQ. (Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer LLP): I was wondering if you've found in your research whether people of different classes — whether a peasant could hold someone of a higher class accountable.
PROF. BURBANK: The courts I studied, these lowest-level ones, were part of an official estate-based system which endured until March 1917. People of different statuses had different rights and different access to different legal institutions. At a higher-level court — the circuit courts — peasants and people of all different statuses were mobilized as juries and could be taken to court or were taking people to court. In the lowest-level courts, in theory, anybody in the township could take a case there, but the rules were actually set out to ensure all the judges would be peasants. In my huge data base, I found two cases out of thousands where a person of noble estate took a case to this court. But I did find occasionally, very occasionally, peasants suing a noble, probably a good-for-nothing in the area. People who had the townspersons' estate — this is really a society with estate-based rights — went to these courts, too. That would be the estate most proximate to that of peasants; a peasant could have changed status from being a farmer to being a merchant. I found a lot of those people in these courts.
MR. ZULACK: I have a question that's the converse of this gentleman's question. Did the people who went to courts have the assurance that the national government wouldn't be involved in the administration of justice? That is, that justice would be local and it would be really within their territory, so that someone from the state could not come in and say, “Wait a second, that's not fair because this person is a minister, this person is a this or that.” Is there a benefit to not having the national government involved in the administration of justice? Certainly, if the national government is a totalitarian government.
PROF. BURBANK: I'm speaking of the period of the imperial regime. In my view, the imperial regime worked in a very flexible and subtle way, and it deeply believed in supervision. In theory, the thick book of records that a peasant court clerk constructed was to be reviewed by an imperial official, also from the locality, from the noble estate, whose job it was to oversee administration of the township level. I never saw an official ever take a book and then leap into a review of the case. However, speaking in the other sense, peasants knew very well that if they didn't think that they got justice at the lower-court level with their judges, they could try to reach to that same official. And they did. So I don't think they were thinking in a conscious way about the primacy of local rights. The law codes, on the other hand, tell them that they are to use local customs to decide certain kinds of disputes.
MR. ROTHSTEIN: Thank you. Richard?
PROFESSOR RICHARD WORTMAN: I'm afraid I may be one of the wrong people Jane has said you should stop listening to. My book on Russian legal consciousness came out quite a while ago. Since then, I've been working on Russian autocracy, its symbolism, and myth. I think these are very much connected with the rule of law. Rule of law means to me — I think we have a different definition — a significant role of law in the entire governmental system — not just that there is a lot of litigation — and that people at a certain level respect the law. I think Jane's book, which is a brilliant study in social and legal history, does show that peasants developed a strong sense of law, and in the pre-revolutionary legal system could pursue it.