Japan and Civil Jury Trials

Japan and Civil Jury Trials

The Convergence of Forces

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta

As societies around the world increasingly face complex challenges, effective solutions are at a premium. In response, reformers have advanced varied forms of jury systems as means of fostering positive political, economic, and social change. Many countries have recently integrated lay participation into their justice systems to effect fundamental societal change, advance public policymaking, and manifest popular sovereignty. This book showcases Japan’s successes and challenges in recently adopting a quasi-jury system for serious criminal trials, and advocates that the convergence of various forces makes this an ideal time for Japan to expand lay participation into the civil realm.

Chapter 3: Advancement of the lay judge system and ongoing challenges

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta

Subjects: law - academic, asian law, constitutional and administrative law, criminal law and justice, politics and public policy, asian politics


In its formative years, Japan’s new participatory justice system has consistently exhibited substantial promise on many levels, particularly in relation to the original goals and recommendations set forth by the Justice System Reform Council. Democratic governance encompasses a collective self-understanding that the law is accessible to ordinary citizens, and the citizens are sufficiently educated to understand the laws governing their respective lives and society as a whole. The lay judge system appears to be functioning to this end, at least in terms of serious criminal trials. To the surprise of many skeptics, Japan’s lay judge system has attained high praise and acclaim from nearly all quarters. Even the courts’ assessment of the system has been quite positive. Despite room for improvement and the emergence of various challenges, many of the serious doubts and fears raised by critics before the creation of the lay judge system have not materialized. It appears that the system is here to stay. Outside of the country, there has been much interest in Japan’s judicial reforms and its new lay judge system. Countries across Asia and around the world watched Japan’s move towards greater democratic participation in the judicial system with much anticipation. Going forward, the world will continue to focus on Japan’s involvement of average citizens in the judicial decision-making process.

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