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Three courts have refused to allow three Korean residents working as lawyers to assume commissioned jobs despite being nominated by their bar associations, because they are not Japanese, attorneys said Thursday.

The Kobe Family Court refused to appoint Yang Yong Ja as its arbitrator in 2003, the Tokyo District Court rejected Un Yuki as its judicial commissioner in 2005 and the Sendai Family Court turned down Choi Sin Ui as its arbitrator this year, the lawyers said.

The Supreme Court said the status of the jobs is similar to that of civil servants in positions of authority and therefore require Japanese nationality, but their fellow lawyers are voicing objections to the court measures, they said.

Each bar association plans to file a petition with local courts demanding that they hire lawyers under Japan’s judicial system regardless of nationality, claiming the courts’ refusal is not based on any provisions.

The rules on family court arbitrators, for example, require only that they qualify as lawyers and have the technical knowledge helpful to resolve civil and family disputes, but not that they have Japanese nationality.

Many lawyers raised questions about the measures in a recent study meeting of the Tokyo Bar Association, saying the courts’ attitude has no legal grounds and is out of touch with the times and current efforts to eradicate discrimination.

One of the lawyers, Choi, said he considers the court’s measure a form of discrimination if it is based solely on nationality.

“As a member of the city government’s advisory council, I have been engaged in some sense in public decision-making,” he said. “Since arbitrators make judgments based on the law and their conscience, the qualifying based only on the status of nationality is discrimination.”

The government’s position is that under the principle of popular sovereignty, the central and local governments should require Japanese nationality in hiring employees with public authority.

While a growing number of local governments are abolishing such requirements as Japan becomes more ethnically diverse, they have rarely appointed employees who are not Japanese to managerial positions.

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