As Japan marks the 15th anniversary of the introduction of its lay judge system on Tuesday, Supreme Court documents show that the number of appointed judges has been decreasing and trials have tended to become longer in recent years.

The system, in which citizens are appointed to participate in hearings of serious criminal cases and their sentencing alongside professional judges, continues to face challenges in term of both encouraging people to answer the call of becoming lay judges as well as making trials more efficient and at the same time giving sufficient assessment to each case.

As of February this year, a total of 124,017 citizens had been selected as lay judges and their substitutes — they join court proceedings from the onset and remain on standby in case of withdrawals — since the introduction of the system in 2009, according to Supreme Court statistics.