With Japan marking its three-year anniversary of the lay judge system, now is an ideal time to assess the progress of the new system, examine its effect on Japanese society, and explore future possibilities. More significantly, this paper asserts that the convergence of various forces makes this an ideal time to expand lay participation into the civil realm so as to enhance the justice process and fully achieve the objectives of Japan’s major legal reforms. Accordingly, this paper is separated into three sections. First, Part I details the underpinnings of Japan’s new lay judge system and examines its triumphs and shortcomings. Not only does close scrutiny of the lay judge system benefit Japan, but it can also offer valuable lessons on an international scale to other countries using or considering the use of jury or quasi-jury systems. Second, Part II addresses the future and explores a concept largely unaddressed in academic discourse by suggesting that Japan should seriously consider expanding the use of citizen judges beyond serious criminal trials and into the civil realm. This section addresses the merits of potential expansion and examines possible drawbacks to lay participation in certain civil trials. Finally, Part III points out several issues that Japan would need to address if citizen judges were able to participate in certain civil trials. Now that lay participation in serious criminal trials has apparently taken root in Japanese society, it is a prime time to assess and explore the possibility of expanding the use of citizen judges to further and fully achieve the expressed goals of Japan’s ongoing judicial reforms.
Wilson, Matthew J.
"Prime Time for Japan to Take Another Step Forward in Lay Participation: Exploring Expansion to Civil Trials,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 46
, Article 2.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol46/iss3/2