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It is important to carry out judicial reforms in order to ensure that the public has better access to legal services, according to newly appointed Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama.

Mayumi Moriyama

“With our society as a whole coming up against a brick wall in every respect, the judiciary is a major area where reform is needed, along with the economy, social security and education,” the 73-year-old minister said.

“It is one of the biggest issues facing the Justice Ministry now,” she said.

Moriyama said that many laws enacted long before today’s high-tech age are now hampering businesses and failing to address people’s diverse activities in a deregulated society.

In specific terms, Moriyama said her ministry will start overhauling the judicial system as soon as an advisory panel to the prime minister submits a blueprint to the government in June.

The 13-member Judicial Reform Council, which consists of jurists, scholars and other civic representatives, is tasked with mapping out the blueprint aimed at ensuring better access for ordinary people to the legal system.

The report is expected to include means of boosting the number of legal professionals, paving the way for citizens to take an active role in trials and reforming the now-exclusive judicial circles.

While acknowledging she is a judicial affairs novice, Moriyama said this may help ordinary citizens empathize with her ministerial role.

“Many people are under too much of an impression that judicial affairs are difficult, awesome and even scary. We must therefore actively inform the public about the role of law in making life easier,” she said.

The former labor bureaucrat has also served as chief Cabinet secretary and education minister.

She thanked Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for including five female ministers in his Cabinet.

“I have always advocated women’s participation in politics at every level. Five is more than I expected, and I’m very pleased,” she said.

She also expressed determination to follow her predecessor, Masahiko Komura, in seeking to beef up the Immigration Bureau in an effort to cope with illegal aliens.

On capital punishment, Moriyama said during her inaugural news conference that it is a necessary measure to maintain legal order, particularly at a time when society is engendering a stream of vicious and violent crimes.

Regarding the pending issue of revising the Civil Code, allowing couples to retain separate family names following marriage, she said her ministry will not make a decision before a public opinion poll it plans to conduct in the fall.

She added, however, “Personally, I think it’s not wise to prohibit people from opting for separate family names, considering how more and more people harbor diverse values.”

Her opinion is in line with a report submitted in 1996 by the Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister.

Over the past five years, this proposed revision to the Civil Code has been shelved because of persistent opposition from conservative lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party.

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