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The government has decided to appoint Yukio Horigome, a Supreme Court justice, as the next chief justice, replacing Akira Machida who will retire Oct. 15, government sources said Saturday.

After new Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe is elected prime minister Tuesday by the Diet, Machida will recommend Horigome, 66, as his successor. The government will formalize the appointment at a Cabinet meeting following Abe’s approval, the sources said.

Machida has served as chief justice of the top court since November 2002. Horigome’s tenure as the 16th chief justice will run until June 2010 when he reaches the retirement age of 70.

Horigome has mainly worked as a justice in criminal courts and has served in key administrative posts in the top court such as personnel bureau chief and secretary general.

The government believes Horigome is suitable for the post ahead of the planned introduction of a citizen judge system in 2009, as he was involved in judicial reform when he was the top court’s secretary general.

A graduate of the University of Tokyo, Horigome has been a Supreme Court justice since May 2005.

He was the presiding justice in charge of judging on a special appeal filed by the defense counsel for Aum Shinrikyo guru Shoko Asahara.

He rejected the appeal on Sept. 15, finalizing the death sentence against Asahara over masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other charges.

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