Proposal to Reform the Japanese Saiban’in Seido (Lay Judge System) to Exclude Drug-Related Cases: Context and Complexities from the Chiba District Court
20 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 7, 2015
The first trial using the Japanese saiban’in (‘lay judge’) system commenced in August 2009. By February 2014, 36,027 Japanese citizens had served as saiban’in in 6,392 cases. Reflecting its contentious evolution, there were calls for reform almost as soon as the new system commenced. This article examines a proposal to reform the new system by excluding drug-related cases, using evidence from the Chiba District Court. The Chiba District Court experience has tested the government and community’s commitment to the legislative objective of lay participation in serious criminal trials. Some media and public question the need for any citizen participation in drug-related cases. The article argues, however, that the reforms are unlikely to eventuate. The findings of a Report from a Working Group sponsored by the Ministry of Justice suggest that there is a willingness to adhere to the objectives of the new legislation and no compelling reason to exclude drug-related cases. Further, initial concerns about higher acquittal rates and prosecutors losing appeals have abated as jurisprudence develops.
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