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 10: Civil lay participation and state-corporate liability

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 examining whether Japan should extend lay participation into the civil realm and develop a civil jury system, it is useful to explore the possible impact that ordinary citizens would have on the civil dispute resolution system. Court litigation is the most common and widely used procedure for resolving both civil and commercial disputes in Japan. In looking back at the outcome of civil jury trials in Okinawa, albeit limited, the experience resulted in female plaintiffs commencing litigation and successfully winning their lawsuits against large and powerful corporations. One of the largest firms in Okinawa, Matsuoka Electric Power Company, which was founded and owned by the chief executive of the Okinawa government, even lost a civil case filed by a single mother. In the modern era of Japanese civil litigation, the trends have been polar opposite. Detailed research has substantiated that, when sued, Japan’s powerful organizations, including the government and its agencies traditionally win ‘at least, almost and always.’ It is impossible to accurately predict whether similar trends would emerge in the case of all-citizen juries. However, infusing the observations and experience of citizens into the adjudication of civil disputes would, among other things, certainly promote fairness and engender greater trust in the system. This chapter explores the possible effects if Japan were to adopt civil jury trials.

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