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 5: Overcoming challenges facing the system

Matthew J Wilson, Hiroshi Fukurai and Takashi Maruta


Still in its infancy, Japan’s lay judge arrangement and court system naturally face various tests and imperfections. Japan continues to explore solutions to many of these challenges, and would benefit from exploring even more. In any event, the experiment with citizen participation has demonstrated considerable promise and should be further examined for potential expansion. Few civic activities provide the same level of direct contact with government and democracy as jury duty. Aside from voting or political service, there is no activity that is so participatory in nature. In the context of a country with extensive experience, the United States Supreme Court explained in Powers v. Ohio that, ‘with the exception of voting, for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process.’ Jury service should be viewed both as a responsibility and privilege. In fact, studies and surveys in the United States have consistently demonstrated not only that most individuals who have served on a jury desire to serve again, but also that jury duty is not viewed as a burden by those who have served.

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