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 7: Citizen participation in civil trials can be beneficial as demonstrated by the experiences of the United States

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


Because citizen participation in civil trials is an unknown concept in Japan, many people may doubt or fear the idea of involving citizens in civil and commercial disputes that have traditionally been delegated to professional judges. These fears should be largely tempered given Japan’s successful implementation of its lay judge system in a criminal context and the positive outcomes expressed by citizen judges. Through a greater understanding of the overall advantages of lay participation and experiences of other countries, these fears and concerns should be further alleviated. In fact, as citizen participation in the justice system continues to evolve in Japan, much can be learned and even borrowed from the jury systems and practices of other countries. By examining other legal systems, a country can learn about different practices and determine whether they would benefit society and assist in the administration of justice. In fact, Japan can look to the United States’ experience to assess positive outcomes and potential pitfalls with respect to juries and civil lawsuits. This may be particularly helpful given that the United States is the most prolific country in using civil jury tribunals. Through its federal and state courts, the United States has accumulated considerable experience and expertise with jury trials. The US federal government, every state, and the District of Columbia maintain separate civil and criminal jury trial systems.

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