Saturday, September 08, 2012

          Professor Hand Builds Ties, Conducts Research on Chinese Legislative Conflicts

          UC Hastings is building a world-class East Asian Legal Studies program.

          UC Hastings professors often spend the summer or sabbaticals on research or teaching or studying abroad. Associate Professor Keith Hand made two recent trips to China to give lectures and hold exchanges with Chinese scholars and officials as part of an ongoing research project on China's system for resolving legislative conflicts.

          Hand’s research is part of UC Hastings’ ongoing efforts to reach out to the Pacific Rim and build a comprehensive East Asian Legal Studies program.

          “Each stop and meeting presents an opportunity to introduce UC Hastings to Chinese counterparts, expand our already strong reputation in the region, and build institutional and personal relationships that will advance the work of our faculty, students, and alumni,” Hand said. Hand teaches Introduction to Chinese Law, China and the International Legal Order, and Legal Reform in East Asia at UC Hastings.

          Hand’s current research focuses on legislative conflicts in China. Since opening to the world in the late 1970s, China has produced an explosion of legislation in its effort to construct a socialist legal system.

          But the rapid output has created a hodgepodge of legislation and led to what Hand characterizes as “severe legislative disorder.” Legislative conflicts create uncertainty and instability for citizens and outsiders alike, and have hindered China’s economic development.

          In March, Hand traveled to Beijing to meet with constitutional and administrative law scholars and collect primary source materials. During this trip, he lectured on legislative conflicts at Beijing University Law School and gave a paper on constitutional dispute resolution in China at the Constitutionalism Workshop at the Chinese University of Politics and Law. In both cases, Hand presented in Chinese.

          Hand returned to China in June for a series of meetings with senior scholars, legislative officials, judges and lawyers in Beijing and three Chinese provinces. He also met with United Nations Development Program officials managing cooperative programs on legal harmonization in China.

          After exchanges with senior legislative and judicial officials in Beijing, Hand traveled to Hunan province, where he held discussions on legislative conflicts with officials at the Hunan Provincial People's Congress. Mr. Xie Yong, Vice-Chairman of the Hunan Provincial People's Congress, and six officials responsible for Hunan's provincial filing and review system hosted him for a discussion and a dinner.

          The meeting was covered in the Hunan Daily and on the Hunan Provincial People's Congress website.

          After leaving Hunan, Hand traveled to Northeastern University in Shenyang, Liaoning to give a lecture titled "Comparative Perspectives on the Resolution of Legislative Conflicts" to more than 120 students and faculty members at Northeastern University. Professor June Sui, a visiting scholar at UC Hastings in 2008-09, arranged the visit. During his stay, Hand introduced UC Hastings and its international programs to the audience and met with the dean of the law department, who invited Hastings professors to return and lecture in the future.

          Hand ended his trip in Shanghai, where he met with senior constitutional law scholars and a member of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee.

          "There is a gap between the law on paper and in practice in all systems, but this gap is particularly large in China,” Hand said. “In conducting research on the Chinese legal systems, it is absolutely essential to get on the ground, collect original-language primary sources, and most importantly to talk in person with a wide range of legal actors. It is also important to get out of Beijing and into the provinces," Hand said.

          Hand’s research will help practitioners develop strategies to address legislative conflicts that affect their clients and to navigate China’s complex conflict resolution system.

          "In practice, legislative and administrative institutions with clear constitutional authority to cancel conflicting lower-level legislation rarely if ever exercise this formal authority. Conversely, courts have no formal constitutional authority to review legislation. However, they engage in a form of limited judicial review when they encounter legislative conflicts and decide on the appropriate law to apply to concrete disputes. These dynamics are the product of China’s political culture and institutional capacity challenges. My research illuminates and explores these dynamics."

          Building on the work of several scholars, including Hand, UC Hastings is building one of the most comprehensive East Asian Law programs in the United States. The college offers a full range of courses on the legal systems of China and Japan.

          UC Hastings has also established student and faculty exchange programs with three of the most prestigious law schools in the region, including Beijing University Law School. Additionally, UC Hastings students have served internships with law firms and arbitration institutions in the region. “Our objective is to provide students with the knowledge, training, and contacts they need to take full advantage of the fantastic career opportunities across the Pacific Rim," said Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu.

          Hand is teaching a survey course on China’s legal system in the Fall 2012 semester. “I look forward to bringing these insights into the classroom," he said.

          "The energy and opportunity of China’s transformation has gripped me since my first trip to China in 1993,” Hand said. “When one meets with Chinese officials and scholars, one can sense both their optimism and their concern about the complex challenges that China faces. This trip was no different.”

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