Comment in Protest of the Search Conducted at a Law Office
On January 29, 2020, the public prosecutors at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office conducted a search in connection with criminal case at the law office of the attorneys who previously represented the relevant case. Although the attorneys explicitly exercised their right to refuse seizure, as protected under Article 105 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (the “CCP”), the public prosecutors raided the law office through the backdoor. They stayed in the law office for a long period of time, ignoring the attorneys’ repeated requests to leave. The public prosecutors broke the locks on the door in the law office and filmed the attorneys’ office rooms where the case files were kept. In the end, they seized only one envelope containing documents. These documents had been voluntarily presented and offered to the public prosecutors by the attorneys before the search had commenced.
Attorneys have the right to refuse seizure of items containing confidential information of their clients. This is designed to protect the legal service with which the confidential information is entrusted, in addition to ensuring citizens’ interests to have effective legal assistance. The decision of whether the information falls under the category of confidential, protected under CCP Article 105, is made entirely at the discretion of the attorneys that have been entrusted with this information. The search is to be conducted for the discovery of seized articles. Once the attorneys refuse a request for seizure, then the search is also prohibited.
Therefore, it is unjustifiable that the public prosecutors violated the law by raiding the law office through the backdoor, despite the attorneys having exercised their rights to refuse seizure and refused their request for entry, staying in the office despite the repeated requests to leave, breaking the locks on the door inside the law office and filming in the office rooms without permission.
The Constitution protects the rights of citizens to defend themselves, and gives them the right to have defense counsels whether suspected or accused, which obliges the attorneys to make their best efforts to defend the clients’ rights and interests. The fact that the public prosecutors, the opposing parties, have violated the law and defense counsels’ rights significantly undermines the fairness of the criminal justice system in Japan.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations protests the public prosecutors’ illegal execution of the warrant and urges them to refrain from committing similar acts again.
January 31, 2020
Japan Federation of Bar Associations