Sunday, February 11, 2007

Issues in Japanese Law

In May 2004 the Japanese Diet passed legislation for the introduction of a new quasi-jury system whereby judges will be assisted by a number of 'lay assessors' in determining not only the verdict of criminal cases, but also in the fact finding process and in sentencing. People will be selected at random to serve as lay assessors much like how jury duty works here in Australia - except that these people will be more like judges than members of the jury (who are only responsible for producing the verdict).

The reformed system will be implemented by May 2009. The five years between announcement and implementation is intended to provide time to adequately inform and educate the general populace about their role in the new system. In fact, one section of the legislation actually requires the Japanese government and Supreme Court to implement measures to explain the various aspects of the system to the public.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. An article I was reading for class (K. Anderson and L. Ambler, 'The Slow Birth of Japan's Quasi-Jury System') brought this particular advertisement to my attention:

(Featuring Hasegawa Kyoko, it says: By my judgment, by my perceptions, by my words, I will participate)

I couldn't help but find amusing the following comment by the authors of the article:

"It remains completely unclear why Hasekawa [sic], in particular, was chosen for the role, having no specific ties or stated interest in the introduction of the new lay assessor system."

I can think of at least one good reason and I'm sure most of you can too, but I suspect that the authors were being at least slightly sarcastic there. Anyway, what was more amusing (and confirmed my suspicions) was the footnote that accompanied the quote. It was as follows:

"Somewhat frivolously but also seriously to a degree, we conducted an informal survey of colleagues who could not read Japanese regarding what they thought the Hasekawa [sic] advertisement was selling. None of the answers were even closely related; they included: constipation medicine, feminine hygiene products, high technology and most frequently hair products."

Yes, apparently these legal academics have a good sense of humour.

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