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Public and Victim Participation in Criminal Justice in Japan: A Tenth Anniversary Symposium

September 20, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm

One of the most prominent items of the justice system reform is public participation in the administration of criminal justice. There are two forms. One is the introduction of criminal trials for a limited range of most serious cases by a mixed panel consisting of three professional judges and six lay judges. Like American jurors, those lay judges are randomly selected from among local voters on a case by case basis. Unlike American jurors, however, they decide both on guilt and sentencing together with professional judges. This system is called the lay judge system and was introduced in May 2009. The other is the introduction of compulsory prosecution by the Prosecution Review Board. The Board was introduced as part of the post-World War II reform for the democratization of the justice system in Japan and consists of eleven members randomly selected from local voters. Japanese prosecutors have a wide range of discretion to suspend prosecution even in cases which have enough evidence for a conviction. The Board reviews such non-prosecution decisions and can express an opinion that the suspect should have been prosecuted by a special majority of eight or more members. Prosecutors could still suspend prosecution rejecting such an opinion. Since May 2009, however, such opinion from the Board became mandatory if it is made twice. The prosecution will become mandatory and practicing attorneys will be appointed as special prosecutors. These two systems have attracted much international attention.

There is another item of reform which came from outside the justice system reform movement. That is the system of victim participation in a limited range of serious cases which is virtually the same to the range of cases handled by the lay judge system. Under this system, the victim or victim representatives such as members of the bereaved family and their lawyers can question witnesses and the defendant and express their views about the guilt and sentence. This system was a result of the victim rights movement which quickly appeared since 2000 and introduced in December 2008, six months earlier than the lay judge system. Introduction of this system has made criminal defense lawyering particularly difficult.

This year’s Japanese law symposium will discuss these three systems from a comparative perspective. It is reported that some symposia are planned in Japan to discuss the lay judge system and the compulsory prosecution system, but there is no report about a symposium which will add the victim participation system to the discussion. Another unique element of this symposium is the participation of a panelist with a Continental European perspective. While the lay judge system and the victim participation have more similarities with Continental European systems, it has been rare to include a panelist with such a perspective at symposia on these systems. Thus, our symposium will again make a significant and a unique contribution to the scholarship on the Japanese justice system.

This event is co-sponsored by:

  • East Asian Legal Studies Program, UC Hastings
  • Japan Society of Northern California
  • Hastings Journal of Crime and Punishment


Follow the below website link to register for this event.


September 20, 2019
1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Roslyn Foy


San Francisco, CA United States View Map

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