Members of a government panel on judicial reform said Monday they will push for the introduction of a jury system for criminal trials as a way to secure “popular sovereignty.”
Judicial Reform Council member Tsuyoshi Takagi, vice president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), said public trust in the judicial system is on “shaky ground.”
Decisions by the courts to uphold the constitutionality of wide discrepancies in the value of votes in Diet constituencies and a lack of transparency in the judicial system are undermining public confidence in the judiciary, he said.
Takagi also criticized judges for not being considerate enough toward crime victims and for sometimes using derogatory terms.
A Kyoto District Court judge in a ruling last October on a civil case compared taxi drivers to “kumosuke,” a word used originally to refer to palanquin bearers that is also sometimes used to describe a dishonest or shady person.
“The jury system would lead to a change in consciousness for the courts as well as the entire judicial system,” Takagi said. He also called for citizens to be represented on the selection committee for judges.
Another panel member, Hatsuko Yoshioka, secretary general of the Japan Housewives Association, criticized the Supreme Court for opposing the introduction of a jury system.
“It is problematic that the Supreme Court seems to think that jurisdiction rests not with the citizens but with the judges,” Yoshioka said.
Members of the judicial reform panel said earlier that a system should be established to allow ordinary citizens to influence justices’ decisions in Supreme Court trials by giving their opinions in major criminal cases.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has also recommended that citizens participate in the judicial system via a jury-style framework. However, the Justice Ministry has not shown any enthusiasm for either proposal.
Deliberations on the contentious issue are to continue at the panel’s next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 26.
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