Recent Reforms to the Japanese Judiciary: Real Change or Mere Appearance?
Hōshakaigaku [journal of the Japanese Association for Sociology of Law], Vol. 66, pp. 128-61 (2007)
17 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2015
Date Written: 2007
In June 2001, the Justice System Reform Council issued its final report. The Council's recommendations included several proposed reforms to the judiciary, intended to insure the judiciary would "meet the expectations of the people." This essay examines a number of those recommendations and the resulting reforms.
The single reform to the judiciary that has received the most publicity is the introduction of the saiban'in system, through which ordinary citizens will participate directly in judging serious criminal cases and thus will have the opportunity to express their views directly in the deliberation of those cases. That system, which is scheduled to commence operation in 2009, lies beyond the scope of this essay.
This essay instead focuses on several other reforms to the judicial selection and review process recommended by the Reform Council. Most of these reforms already have been implemented. Over time, they have the potential to alter the composition and even the internal culture of the judiciary. Consequently, the potential impact of these reforms extends beyond criminal cases to the entire range of cases handled by the courts and, indeed, to the nature of the Japanese judiciary itself. Will they have a major impact, though, or will they end up more appearance than reality?
Keywords: Supreme Court of Japan, judicial selection, lower courts, attorneys
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