The Convergence of Forces
Chapter 2: The great debate: introducing a lay judge system
Japan’s efforts to integrate citizens into its criminal justice system represent one of the most fascinating modern experiments in judicial reform anywhere in the world. For a country that often champions the public welfare over individual interests, the shift in Japan to policies and procedures that invite individual input is not only intriguing, but also requires a greater level of understanding. Notwithstanding the economic-related objectives underlying Japan’s monumental legal reforms and the benefits typically associated with citizen involvement in government, the concept of adopting a jury system or mixed court system was hotly contested in higher-level discussions. The motivations for supporting or opposing lay participation in the judicial process varied substantially among the stakeholders. Even after the lay judge system had been adopted and the country had invested substantial sums and five years of time preparing for the system, the reception across the country was still quite mixed. The domestic stakeholders affected by this monumental reform greeted the system and its objectives with varied reactions. Many political reformers, attorneys, scholars and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations were excited and encouraged about the potential of the new system. By introducing citizen participation into the criminal justice trial process, the reformers sought to enable the citizenry to shift away from its excessive dependency on the government.
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