Japan’s New Quasi-Jury System and Video-Taping of Interrogations

Japan has reintroduced a system involving lay participation in serious criminal trials. As discussed in several Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) events over recent years, this saiban’in system involves randomly selected ‘Lay Judges’ and professional career judges jointly assessing the facts to reach a verdict, as well as deciding on sentences. The model is more Continental European than Anglo-American, but a shared concern is to bring the justice system closer to citizens’ everyday life – a guiding principle in the Judicial Reform Council’s Final Recommendations issued in 2001. Diverse dimensions to greater popular participation throughout Japan’s legal process, including also my study of how the Japanese government organizes its litigation services beyond the criminal justice sphere, will be the subject of ANJeL’s third book from Edward Elgar (forthcoming around December 2010, co-edited with Leon Wolff and Kent Anderson).
Legislation establishing this saiban’in system was enacted in 2004, but implementation was delayed for five years to allow all stakeholders to get used to the idea and many practical implications. (For example, many of the ANJeL Judges-in-Residence sent to Australia by the Supreme Court of Japan have carefully compared how this country manages jury trials, especially in connection with the media.) The enactment illustrates my previous point that the former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led coalition had already shifted away from more conservative stances even before its dramatic loss of power in the general election on 30 August this year. Even more ironically, although the first saiban’in trial took place without apparent mishap earlier that month, campaigns by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and other then-Opposition parties drew on growing concerns among the general public about actually having to serve as Lay Judges. Hopefully, however, Japan’s experience will become similar to Australia’s – where the general public is quite negative about serving on juries, but individual jurors afterwards report that it was a worthwhile experience. (A similar pattern is also observed in the US.)

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Lessons for Australia – How (Japan and) other countries are dealing with current consumer issues

Tezukayama University Professor Michelle Tan (who Commented recently on my previous blog on the new DPJ government and law reform) spoke with me on this topic at the big SOCAP (Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals) conference in Sydney over 25-6 August. Key conference themes were the impact of the GFC and world-wide recession, and the new nation-wide Australian Consumer Law reforms. We emphasised the need for Australia to unify consumer nation-wide by ‘trading up’ not only to best practice from among its states and territories, but also to emerging global standards. Our presentation compared developments in consumer policy/administration generally, product liability and safety, consumer credit and unfair contract terms, collective redress and consumer ADR. (Powerpoints and a related Working Paper are here, drawing on my various Submissions to aspects of Australia’s current consumer law reform program.)

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The New DPJ Government in Japan: Implications for Law Reform

Mainstream Australian media provided distressingly meager coverage of Japan’s exciting general election for the more powerful lower House of Representatives last Sunday, which saw a remarkable about-face. The centrist Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) went from 115 to 308 seats, with allies SDP (the small leftover of the once-powerful Social Democratic Party) and the New Party Nippon taking another 7 and 3 seats respectively. Overall, these and other former Opposition parties took 340 seats, whereas the conservative ruling coalition suffered a massive defeat. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) dropped to 119 seats, from 300 before the election (and 296 in 2005, the previous election called by Junichiro Kozumi who then retired as Prime Minister). The Komeito dropped from 31 to 21 seats, meaning that the former ruling coalition now only has 140 seats. In short, the tables have turned almost completely since 2005, in a country (in)famous for its aversion to abrupt changes in direction.
This blog posting is the first of several thinking through this result and some implications for policy and law reform in Japan.

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Law, Public Policy and Economics in Japan and Australia: Reviewing Bilateral Relations and Commercial Regulation in 2009

This is the grand title of a modest Sydney Law School Research Paper (No 09/71) updating and editing another collection of my blog postings both here and on the East Asia Forum. Freely downloadable via http://ssrn.com/abstract=1446523, it is based mainly on developments from the end of 2008 through to mid-2009.
Many topics are important not only within Australia and Japan, but also potentially for bilateral relations (for example, as novel dimensions to the FTA or ‘Economic Partnership Agreement’ already under negotiation between these two countries). Several topics (for example, the state of economics as a discipline after the GFC, neo-communitarian perspectives on comparative law and society, the legacy of the post-War Occupation of Japan) also address more broadly how we should (re)conceptualise law, economics and public policy particularly in the Asia-Pacific context.

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Unfair Consumer Contracts Law Reform in Australia (at last), Japan and Europe

Compared to Australian and New Zealand legislation, Japan’s Consumer Contracts Act 2000 has quite narrow restrictions on the bargaining process leading up to the conclusion of contracts between consumers and commercial suppliers (Luke Nottage ‘Nihon-Nyujirando Shohishakeiyakuho [Consumer Contract Law in Japan and New Zealand]’ 1620 Toki no Horei 4-5, June 2000). But it adds a ‘general clause’ regulating unfair contract terms, voiding those that ‘impair the interests of consumers unilaterally against the fundamental principle’ of good faith under Civil Code Art 1(2), as well as targeting some specific types of terms. The Consumer Contracts Act also extends to all types of contracts (except employment contracts: Art 48), and defines ‘consumer’ broadly as any individual not contracting for a business purpose (Art 2).

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Arb-Med and New International Commercial Mediation Rules in Japan

A recent issue of the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA) Newsletter is largely devoted to these topics (No 22, July 2009). Sydney Law School and ANJeL are privileged to host not only one of Japan’s doyens in ICA (and other cross-border dispute resolution, especially WTO procedures), Professor Yasuhei Taniguchi (over July-August 2009). We also welcome (over September – March 2010) Kokushikan University Professor Tatsuya Nakamura, a leader of Japan’s ‘new generation’ of arbitration specialists who heads JCAA’s Arbitration Department.
They have already got me Download filethinking further about Arb-Med (arbitrators encouraging parties to settle their dispute), in the context also of interesting new JCAA Rules focused more specifically on Mediation. Both developments are important for Australia, presently reviewing its legislative and institutional framework for international commercial arbitration (ICA), as well as for many other Asia-Pacific countries intensely interested nowadays in efficient mechanisms to resolve cross-border disputes.

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International Investment and Commercial Arbitration in Australia and Japan: Shared Challenges, Different Solutions?

Australia and Japan face a remarkably similar challenge. Few international arbitrations have their seat in either country, despite various initiatives undertaken over the last decade or two. Both Australia and Japan probably need to adapt quite radical measures to overcome remaining barriers to attracting international arbitration activity to their respective shores. This shared problem is serious not just because their arbitrators, lawyers, institutions or local economies miss out on business – after all, at least the arbitrators and lawyers can still earn fees by deploying their skills in arbitrations further abroad. The problem is serious also because low levels of international arbitration activity in both countries limit the potential to develop domestic arbitration, ADR more generally, and indeed effective civil procedure.
Despite the shared challenge, however, quite radical solutions for each country may differ somewhat. Expedited arbitration procedures may be a particular selling point for Australia, but not Japan. Caucusing in Arb-Med may work in Japan, but not Australia. And Japan may have more scope than Australia to develop international arbitration through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach that promotes investment arbitration provisions, for example, even in treaties with other developed countries.

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Law and Community: A Critical Reassessment of American Liberalism and Japanese Modernity

This is the title of our translated and edited collection of essays written in Japanese over the last two decades by a leading legal sociologist in East Asia and world-wide, Professor Takao Tanase (in press, forthcoming January 2010 from Edward Elgar). Leon Wolff and I hope to present an outline at the Inaugural East Asian Law and Society Conference to be held on 5-6 February 2010 at the University of Hong Kong, supported by a Collaborative Research Network within the (originally US-based) Law and Society Association.
Tanase’s empirically-based critique of legal legalism is important not only for the United States, which tends to represent an extreme case. It also helps in assessing developments in East Asian countries increasingly exposed or attracted to American views of how law does and should relate to society, including Japan – but also perhaps China (see eg Tanase, 27(3) Mich J Int’l Law, 2006). Tanase’s neo-communitarian critique also presents a challenge to liberalism more generally, making his reassessment particularly timely for two reasons. First, the Global Financial Crisis was prompted partly by a particular liberal vision of how markets do or should operate. Secondly, countries like Japan have now experienced a decade of reform discussions and initiatives allegedly aimed at “Americanising” the judicial system and the legal profession.

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Who Defends Japan? Government Lawyers and Judicial System Reform in Japan and Australia

At the JSAA-ICJLE conference held at UNSW over 13-16 July 2009, I presented a pathbreaking comparative introduction into how the Japanese government delivers legal services, especially the central government in its high volume of litigated cases. (I also contributed to a panel discussion on “”Bridging the Gap between Japanese Language and Japanese Legal Studies” – click here for abstracts and Powerpoints.)
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This presentation was based on a draft paper co-authored with Ritsumeikan University Associate Professor Stephen Green, a former lawyer for the Australian government and joint ANJeL-in-Japan Program Convenor, and Meiji University political scientist Professor Shinichi Nishikawa. We are bringing together a detailed manuscript for a law journal, as well as a shorter version for the next proposed book by Wolff, Nottage & Anderson (eds) Who Judges Japanese Law? Popular Participation in Japan’s Legal Process. Our analysis begins to fill a significant gap in the literature comparing Japan’s legal profession. This lacuna is all the more surprising, given Japan’s efforts at comprehensive reform of its judicial system underway since 2001.

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Possibilities and Pitfalls in Laws Affecting Children of Australian and Japanese Parents

Responding partly to the May judgment of the German Constitutional Court upholding a ban on hyphenated triple-barrelled surnames, Lisa Pryor suggests we adopt ‘the Spanish solution’ (‘Repetitive name injury‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 6-7 June, News Review p7). That is, children get two surnames, one from each parent. She also suggests we ditch middle names. But middle names already can be used to good effect to address her concerns, especially in the Australia-Japan context.
On the other hand, there remains a problem with Japan’s Nationality Law, despite its recent amendments, that might catch out children of Australian and Japanese parents.

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