The Convergence of Forces
Chapter 4: Reforms related to the lay judge system
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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