As juries in the U.S. and other parts of the world have increasingly come under attack, many countries in Asia have recently turned to juries or quasi-juries in an effort to enhance judicial credibility, ensure justice, facilitate civic engagement, and even stimulate economic reform and recovery. In fact, Japan has led the recent movement of citizen participation in criminal judicial proceedings, and other Asian powers including South Korea, Taiwan, and China have followed its lead to varying degrees. Eyes around the world are focusing on Japan to see how its new jury system (more commonly known as its “lay judge system” or saiban-in seido) will develop. 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.
With Japan marking its 3-year anniversary of the lay judge system, now is an ideal time to assess the progress of its new system, examine its effect on Japanese society, and explore the future possibilities. This paper details the underpinnings of Japan’s new lay judge system and examines its triumphs and shortcomings. Even more significantly, this paper also addresses the future of lay participation in Japan and explores a concept largely unaddressed in academic discourse by asserting that the convergence of various factors makes this an ideal time for Japan to expand lay participation into the civil realm to enhance the justice process and fully achieve the objectives of its ongoing major legal reforms. The groundbreaking analysis focuses on the merits of potentially expanding lay participation in Japan and looks at possible drawbacks to lay participation in civil trials. Now that lay participation in serious criminal trials has taken root in Japanese society, it is a prime time to assess the possibility of expanding the use of citizen judges to further and fully achieve the expressed goals of Japan’s ongoing judicial reforms.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matthew_wilson/6/