OSAKA – The Osaka Bar Association has decided to order Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto to suspend his law practice for two months over his remark on a TV talk show in 2007 criticizing four lawyers defending a man accused of killing a woman and her daughter, sources said Thursday.
Speaking with reporters after the punishment was announced, Hashimoto said: “I strongly disagree with the bar association’s definition of dignity. It’s different from my standard for dignity.”
As a commentator on the Osaka program in May 2007, Hashimoto, who was a TV celebrity before being elected Osaka governor in January 2008, called on viewers to campaign for the lawyers to be punished.
Hashimoto had accused the lawyers of getting the man to change his position to deny having intentionally killed the woman and girl, who were slain in 1999 in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
After the program was aired, the Hiroshima Bar Association, to which the lawyers belong, was swamped with requests for their punishment.
In December 2007, about 340 academics and others filed a request at the Osaka Bar Association, to which Hashimoto belongs, asking it to discipline him over the remark, saying his comment hurt the dignity of lawyers.
Last November, the ethics committee of the bar association sent the case to the association’s disciplinary committee.
Hashimoto has subsequently faced a series of damages suits by the members of the defense counsel.
In the suit filed by the four lawyers, who said his comments obstructed their business, the Hiroshima High Court ordered Hashimoto in July 2009 to pay them a combined ¥3.6 million in compensation, saying Hashimoto acted illegally by calling for their punishment.
The high court ruling said, “(Hashimoto) utilized a television program with overwhelming power over public and exaggerated an accusation against the defense counsel by making a remark with a mixture of true and false information.”
The Osaka Bar Association said Hashimoto’s remark had fueled public dissatisfaction with the activities of the defense counsel and created distrust and false perceptions of lawyers in general.
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