Statement at the Official Announcement of the Final Opinion of the Justice System Reform Council
Today, the Justice System Reform Council (JRC) delivered its official announcement drawing together its final opinions based on the results produced by some two years' worth of deliberations and investigations.
In addition to the more than 60 conferences that it has convened, the JRC has tirelessly held public hearings in four locations around the country, conducted interviews with individuals who have carried through with civil suits, and carried out fact-finding inspection missions in various foreign countries. It has moved forward with substantial deliberations and compiled reports aimed at radical reform of the judicial system in all its aspects. For all of these efforts, we offer our heartfelt respect.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has engaged in efforts directed at judicial reform from the time of the first declaration of such reform efforts in 1990 until the present day. Founded on the basic ideas of the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with the goal of ensuring both individual dignity and human rights, the JFBA has directed itself toward reevaluating the "cheap justice of the bureaucratic sort" seen to date and establishing the "Justice of the People", that is to say, "big justice that entails citizen participation." Concretely, the JFBA has pursued a variety of activities aimed at the expansion of the human and material base of the courts and the Public Prosecutor's Office through an increase in judicial budgets, a rise in the number of legal professionals, the realization of both unified legal professionalism (Hoso-ichigen; a system of recruiting judges that replaces the current criteria of being a law school graduate with that of having been an experienced, practicing attorney) and a jury system, and the construction of a new system for training legal professionals.
Based on such perspectives, the JFBA is sympathetic when it considers the Final Opinion at hand for the Opinion's continuation of the way of thinking on the ideas and direction for reform displayed in both the "list of issues" presented at the end of 1999 and the interim report of November 2000; for its bringing to life the ideas of the Constitution in the social circumstances of the present day; and for the strong determination it shows aimed at a radical reform of the judicial system for the citizens. Furthermore, aside from the three items that have been indicated as the pillars of reform--"outfitting of the systemic base," "expansion of the human base," and "establishment of the national base"--the points raised below represent our evaluation of those items for which the JFBA aims that the Opinion adopts.
First, regarding the expansion of the human base, with its goal of raising both the quantity and quality of legal professionals, the Opinion has proposed an expansion in the number of legal professionals, the solidification of the human structure of the courts and the Public Prosecutor's Office, and a law school scheme intended to guarantee the quality of legal professionals appropriate to the new era. In these respects, the Opinion bears great significance for having planned out how to proactively address ways to establish the rule of law throughout society in its entirety.
Second, regarding citizen's participation in the judicial proceedings, the Opinion acknowledges that broadly speaking the average citizen splits areas of responsibility with judges while simultaneously works in cooperation with them. Regarding serious criminal cases, the fact of the Opinion having proposed the establishment of a "saiban-in system" (wherein lay citizens would also serve as members of a judicial panel) as a new structure that could subjectively and substantially take part in making decisions on the content of judgments would be enormously meaningful through establishing the civic base of our country's judicial system.
Third, regarding the reform of the judges' career system rooted in the idea of Unified Legal Professionalism for which the JFBA has strongly called, the Opinion is of great significance for having--based on that idea--worked out such elements as the moving forward on the appointment of attorneys as judges, getting for assistant judges diverse other work experiences as legal specialists for an appropriate period of time (anticipated to be some two or three years), a planned and graduated dissolution of the special assistant judge system, the institution of a recommendation system in which citizens can also participate with respect to the selection of judges, and the debureaucratization of the personnel system.
Fourth, the creation of a publicly funded attorney system for suspects in criminal cases called for in the Opinion is something that will effectively guarantee the right for suspects in criminal cases to receive the assistance of counsel. The expansion of legal aid that is proposed represents a great step forward owing to the removal of obstacles to access to justice for which the JFBA has long sought.
Furthermore, the JRC collected numerous opinions from all perspectives on the problem of attorney fee shifting since the release of the interim report and reassessed the uniform introduction of such fee shifting, but we expect even more prudent investigations to take place on how the use of the lawsuit system by citizens will not be made to atrophy in the subsequent process of fashioning these ideas into laws. Also, regarding improvements to trials, the Opinion set as its goal halving the time required for them to be completed and worked out where a "speeding up" could take place. However, the Opinion's proposals are inadequate on the matter of "making judgments more reasonable", which takes as its premise the further development and diversification of the measures employed in the collection and presentation of evidence. It will be necessary to adopt adequate measures regarding these matters in the process of turning the Opinion's proposals into laws.
The Final Opinion also makes a variety of statements regarding attorney and bar association reform. At this point in time, the JFBA has already been made aware of what the citizenry expects of it and undertaken reforms on its own. However, the JFBA also intends to sincerely take the Opinion's statements into consideration and continue in its own reform efforts. In particular, with regards to the question of what the nature of attorneys' autonomy in contemporary society should be, the JFBA resolved at its regular general meeting held in May 2001 to work at maintaining and further developing such autonomy rooted in the understanding and support of the citizenry.
Finally, the JFBA is fully aware of its own importance as an entity with a central role in supporting the judicial system in the 21st century. Based on the resolutions passed at the extraordinary general meeting (on matters of unified legal professionalism and the jury system, the number of legal professionals, and the law school scheme) that announced the association's basic policy regarding judicial reform in the 21st century, the JFBA has set as its goal the establishment of judicial and practicing attorney systems that are truly useful to the nation's citizens. Joining hands with citizens from all fields and levels of society, the JFBA hopes that progress will be made on judicial reform and pledges to continue to exhaust all of its energies in its work.
I close this statement with the hope that the government, the Diet, and everyone involved in matters of justice will make ever greater efforts in fulfilling their obligations and duties to society.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
June 12, 2001