National / Crime & Legal

Courts to allow online submissions of documents and evidence for civil lawsuits from 2021

JIJI

The Supreme Court plans to allow online submissions of documents and evidence for civil lawsuits handled by courts across the nation as early as fiscal 2021, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The top court included roughly ¥150 million for creating a specialized system for such online submissions in its budget request for fiscal 2020, set to run from next April, the sources said. The initiative is expected to make court procedures more convenient for litigators.

In civil lawsuits, plaintiffs and defendants must submit documents summarizing their arguments to the court before the date of oral proceedings. Such documents can total several hundred pages.

Under current rules, the documents must be submitted by hand, mailed or faxed.

The Civil Procedure Code was revised in 2004 to include a provision allowing online submissions, but the new step did not taken effect as necessary changes were not made to Supreme Court rules.

Talks on document submissions in electronic form began to make progress in March last year, after a government panel of experts compiled a proposal. The discussions are centering on legislative revisions to allow courts to keep digital copies of summary documents and other materials instead of paper ones.

More recently, though, the Supreme Court established a new rule allowing online submissions, instead of waiting for the proposed legislative changes to be made, the sources said.

The new online system will be used for sending summary documents and copies of evidence, but not for filing the complaints that initiate lawsuits.

To prevent data from being sent mistakenly, users will be required to upload them to a specialized system as opposed to emailing them to the court, according to the sources.

The system is expected to also allow opposing litigators to view the submitted documents, the sources said.

Moves to introduce information technologies to court procedures are also taking place elsewhere.

In February, district courts in Tokyo and seven other Japanese cities will introduce “web meetings” to connect judges and lawyers online, to help make the preparations required for lawsuits easier.

The initiative is set to be rolled out to many other district courts within fiscal 2020.

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