Citizen Participation: Appraising the Saiban'in System
Michigan State International Law Review, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 755-75 (2014)
University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-06
22 Pages Posted: 29 May 2015
Date Written: November 1, 2014
Of the many reforms affecting the Japanese judiciary that were undertaken in connection with the recommendations of the Justice System Reform Council, one reform above all attracted widespread public attention: the introduction of the so-called saiban’in system. In this system, mixed panels of professional judges and lay jurors judge guilt and assess penalties in serious criminal cases. Following a five-year preparation period, the new system went into effect for the specified categories of crimes for which indictments were issued on or after May 21, 2009, with the first trials under the new system commencing in August 2009. Pursuant to the enabling legislation, the saiban’in system was subject to review three years after going into effect, and the Supreme Court issued its three-year evaluation in December 2012. While this essay introduces some of the results of that evaluation, the following remarks primarily reflect my own appraisal.
Of course, the saiban’in system is by no means perfect. Many issues warrant consideration. Some issues have become clearer during the four years the system has been in operation; others have become apparent since the system went into effect. To my mind, however, the achievements of the system far outweigh the issues relating to it, and it is on those achievements that I focus in this essay.
Keywords: Japan, criminal law, criminal procedure, juries, judges, trials
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