The Convergence of Forces
Chapter 6: Expanding lay participation into the civil realm
Civil dispute resolution plays a vital role in shaping any society. It constitutes the core of any legal system and popular base. In light of the substantial impact that certain civil and administrative matters can have upon society combined with Japan’s efforts to successfully integrate citizen adjudication into criminal trials, it is an ideal time for Japan to earnestly consider introducing lay participation into the legal decision-making process in certain civil trials. An all-citizen jury would be ideal in terms of resources, public involvement and transparency. However, a mixed tribunal system akin to the current lay judge panels would be a substantial improvement over the present system and could help attain the objectives underlying recent legal reforms. As countries across the globe continuously confront rapid change and various pressures, they have been increasingly receptive to citizen involvement in the justice system. More specifically, civic reformers have often viewed a jury system, broadly defined as encompassing traditional juries consisting of only laypersons or mixed tribunals comprised of laypersons and professional judges, as a valuable vehicle for enriched civic engagement and a means of compelling positive political, economical and even social change. Juries can enable self-governance and facilitate checks on individuals, industry and government. Having average citizens function as neutral fact-finders can also help the justice system attain a greater level of respect and legitimacy.
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