Japan and Civil Jury Trials
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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.
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Chapter 4: Reforms related to the lay judge system

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta


The significance of the lay judge system should be underscored because it gave rise to the opportunity to introduce other reforms impacting criminal trials and the criminal justice system in general. Some believe that the effects of these tangential reforms have had just as much, if not more, influence than incorporating citizen participation into the trial process itself. Several benefits that have arisen in correlation with the lay judge system include efficiency and transparency. The Justice System Reform Council recommendations called for a new pretrial preparatory process to make judicial proceedings and trials more effective, efficient and transparent. This pretrial process was urged to assist with trial planning and facilitate evidentiary disclosures in advance of trial. To accomplish this objective, Japan implemented the new concept of pretrial conferences. The Lay Judge Act stipulates that all cases subject to lay judge trials shall be subject to a mandatory pretrial process, known as kouhanmae seiri tetsuzuki or pretrial conference procedures, that must occur before the start of trial. Additionally, when the court deems it necessary during the course of the trial, it may pause and reconvene a conference to further narrow down the issues and determine the evidence for the remainder of the trial. The pretrial conferences and related procedures are intended to sort out contested issues, formulate a concrete plan for trial, and facilitate greater disclosure of information in advance of trial.

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