The government finalized a bill Friday aimed at reducing the length of district court trials to two years or less, along with three other bills on justice system reform.
The government hopes the bills, approved during a Cabinet meeting, will clear the Diet by the end of the current session in June.
The bill to shorten the country’s notoriously long trials would make explicit the duties of the government, the courts, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and litigants to conclude district court proceedings within two years. It would apply to both criminal and civil trials.
The legislation aims to boost the number of judges, prosecutors and lawyers to ease the burden on the justice system and expedite proceedings.
The bill was drafted after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced in July that reform is needed to “make sure courts come up with results within two years.”
According to the Osaka Bar Association, 0.4 percent of criminal trials at the district court level that ended in 2001 lasted more than two years. The corresponding figure for civil lawsuits was 7.2 percent.
Prolonged trials often concern high-profile cases and are more evident in serious criminal cases in which confessions have been disputed, according to legal experts.
The trial of former Recruit Co. Chairman Hiromasa Ezoe on charges of bribing politicians in the 1980s dragged on for more than 13 years before he received a suspended sentence last week. The trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara over the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, a previous gas attack and other heinous crimes is now in its sixth year.
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