• Kyodo, Staff Report

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The Tokyo District Court on Thursday sentenced a former Meiji University law school professor to a year in prison, suspended for five years, for leaking this year’s bar exam questions to a female graduate under his tutelage who he used to date.

Prosecutors sought one year in prison for Koichi Aoyagi, 67, who was charged with violating the confidentiality provision of the national civil service law.

“It is obvious that public confidence in the fairness of the bar exam has been profoundly hurt and the social impact cannot be overlooked,” Judge Koichi Nozawa said in handing down the ruling.

But the sentence was suspended considering Aoyagi’s age and the fact that he lost his job, which amounted to a form of social punishment, the ruling said.

Aoyagi was in charge of making questions for the Constitution portion of the bar exam, which was held in May, and gave the woman an essay question and multiple-choice questions on the subject several times between February and May, the ruling said.

During his first court hearing earlier this month, Aoyagi offered an apology, saying he “damaged the foundations of a national examination that ought to be fair.” Defense lawyers for Aoyagi sought leniency.

In the Constitution portion of the exam, the woman aced the multiple-choice questions and turned in an answer on the essay portion that was better than those of the other examinees. It was also similar to a sample answer Aoyagi had written and circulated to other staff who were tasked with formulating questions for or grading the exam.

After the possibility of a leak was raised, the National Bar Examination Commission filed a criminal complaint against Aoyagi in September, accusing him of breaching his legal obligation to keep secrets as a part-time national public servant.

In 2007, a similar scandal surfaced in which a professor at Keio University’s law school, who was an examiner for the bar exam, was accused of briefing students on subjects similar to those that appeared in the questions.

Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki told a news conference Friday that his ministry is taking the ruling seriously.

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