I was most interested in reading the April 26 translated article from Sentaku magazine, “Transforming the Judiciary.” As you may well be aware, the “Prosecution Inquest Committee” is similar to, if not substantially the same as, the grand jury system in the United States.
What struck me, though, was the condescending tone of the writer about the whole process involved in this newly amended law that gives power to these committees to hand up indictments over the objection of the state prosecutor. It’s as if, the writer seems to suggest, the average Japanese citizen is not capable of determining whether the facts presented meet the conditions set by the law for violations to have occurred, and court-appointed attorneys are not able to prepare and present a competent case for trial.
In the U.S., every day, ordinary citizens acting in grand juries undertake the task of sifting through evidence presented by prosecutors to make decisions about prima facie violations of the law. Equally, every day, ordinary attorneys provide their clients with zealous and competent representation.
If anything, this newly amended power given to these Prosecution Inquest Committees and the recently instituted citizen lay-judge system should be cause for celebration. Not only does this power connect the citizen to his government but it also provides the essential check on arbitrary governmental authority. These days, any nation that pays heed to the “democratic” ideal in all its forms should take heart in the fundamental concept of the “consent of the governed.”
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