A Critical Reassessment of American Liberalism and Japanese Modernity
Edited by Luke Nottage and Leon Wolff
Chapter 8: Litigation in Japan and the Modernisation Thesis
JUDICIAL REFORM AND THE REMODELING OF JAPANESE SOCIETY 1. In June 2001, the Judicial Reform Council (JRC) handed down its Final Report.1 The reforms it proposed were sweeping. It recommended tripling the number of lawyers admitted to practice each year, improved access to justice, and popular participation in civil and criminal trials. The impetus for the JRC recommendations was an acknowledgement by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the business sector that Japan needed to build greater capacity into the Japanese legal system to enhance Japan’s ability to compete in an increasingly globalised economy. The judicial reform process coincided with changing attitudes to law and litigation. The general antipathy to litigation has broken down, as Japanese turn to the courts in greater numbers, filing mass claims against firms for environmental damage and defective blood products as well as individual disputes for medical malpractice and workplace bullying. A spate of legislative initiatives has tackled new and emerging social problems, such as domestic violence and stalking. Never before has law played a more visible role in Japanese society. This represents a major transformation in Japan, especially considering that Japan effectively industrialised without the benefit of law. Such an expanded place for law may also reflect the growing impact of globalisation in an era when, according to a report from the LDP, ‘the world is being united through market principles, freedom and democracy’ (LDP Legal System Investigatory Council, 1997). Even so, each society retains much that is distinctive as well as elements...
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