Motoji Kobayashi, President of the JFBA
A new fiscal year began in April, and this is my second spring as the JFBA President.
In my first year as JFBA President, we addressed a number of issues up to and including March. On the matter of civil legal aid, which offers support such as providing loans for attorney fees to people with limited financial resources who are facing legal trouble, since June 2022, the Ministry of Justice, the Japan Legal Support Center (“Ho-terasu”) and the JFBA have jointly held study group sessions to discuss issues related to the civil legal aid system. Among the issues, in order to support a significantly urgent matter of single-parent households, a report on how to support such households in relation to divorce cases with a claim of child support and other related cases was completed at the end of January 2023 as a result of intensive discussion over a very short period of time.
This report will improve the current system in which retroactive child support payments and other payments received from the other party must be applied to the immediate full reimbursement of the loans given to such households by Ho-terasu. It will also enhance means by which single parent households can secure child support where a divorce has been finalized, such as allowing them to retain up to a certain amount of child support and other payments without requiring the immediate full reimbursement, expanding the scope of exemption from reimbursement of the loans given by Ho-terasu to single parents whose child support claim is pending, and withdrawing a policy in principle whereby an attorney collects the attorney fee from child support on a monthly basis and introducing a new one whereby Ho-terasu pays the attorney fee in a lump-sum.
Having adopted the “Resolution Calling for Reviewing Fees to be Charged to Civil Legal Aid Users, Expanding the Types of Cases Eligible For the Civil Legal Aid and Optimizing Attorney Fees who Bear the Task of Providing Such Aid in Order to Operate the System in a Sustainable Manner” at our Extraordinary General Meeting held in March 2023, the JFBA is planning to continue to discuss other remaining issues at the aforementioned study group, such as further expanding support for single parent households, providing legal support for minors applying for representation aid on their own and people filing a petition for adult guardianship for themselves, and taking measures to secure attorneys who provide services under civil legal aid. Discussion on the details such as the timing of implementation of these measures is currently underway.
In addition, it is necessary to urgently support victims who have suffered a miscarriage of justice. The JFBA has worked to provide support to defendants in retrial cases since we started providing support in the Tokushima Case in 1959, and has pointed out the necessity of improving the operation of the retrial system and amending related law. The Task Force for Achieving the Amendment of the Law Related to the Retrial System was established in June 2022, aiming to realize the resolution adopted at the JFBA Convention on the Protection of Human Rights in October 2019. In addition, the JFBA also compiled and released its “Opinion on Amending the Code of Criminal Procedure and Other Law Related to Criminal Retrial” in February 2023. Furthermore, among those cases which the JFBA supports, the JFBA respectively released its President’s statement following the Osaka High Court’s decision to open a retrial of the Hino-Cho Case on February 27th, 2023 concerning the second appeal for retrial, and the Tokyo High Court’s decision to open a retrial of the Hakamada Case on March 13th, 2023 concerning the second appeal for retrial. We will continue to provide support to defendants in retrial cases and persistently work towards achieving the amendment of the Law Related to the Retrial based on the aforementioned Opinion.
There are many other important issues to be addressed, and I am determined to tackle each one with sincerity, so I ask for your continued understanding and assistance, which would be highly appreciated.
April 1, 2023
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations