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Japan Government - Judicial Branch

In Japan, the independent standing of the judicial branch of government is protected, and the constitution stipulates that no disciplinary action against judges shall be administered by any executive organ or agency. All legal conflicts, whether of a civil, administrative, or criminal nature, are subject to judgment in courts of law. Established by the constitution, the Supreme Court is Japans highest judicial organ. There are four types of lower courts, whose numbers and English designations (as of April 2011) are as follows: 8 high courts, 50 district courts, 50 family courts, and 438 summary courts.

According to the constitution, no so-called extraordinary tribunal is to be established, nor shall any organ or agency of the Executive be given final judicial power. According to article 6 of the constitution, the Emperor shall appoint the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, as designated by the Cabinet, while the cabinet directly appoints the other 14 Supreme Court judges. To be eligible for nomination, as indicated in the Law on Courts, one must be a person of high discernment, well grounded in law, and at least 40 years old. A minimum of 10 members must be selected from among those who distinguish themselves as judges, public prosecutors, lawyers, and professors or assistant professors in legal science in universities; the rest need not be jurists. All judges of the Supreme Court must be reviewed by the people in the first general election following appointments, and every 10 years thereafter. The retirement age is 70.

Supreme Court hearings and judgments are made by either the grand bench, which requires the presence of at least nine court justices, or by one of three petty benches, each consisting of from three to five justices. The grand bench examines cases, referred by one of the petty benches, that involve constitutional questions, precedents, and so on.

In addition to its authority as the sole court of last resort, the Supreme Court has the authority to set rules on litigation procedures, together with other special rights of judicial administration, including the nomination of a list of persons from which the cabinet appoints judges for the lower courts. Japans court system is basically a three-trial system in which parties to a dispute following a court hearing and decision have the right to undergo two additional court hearings and decisions, as stipulated by the procedures for appeal (koso) and, ultimately, final appeal (jokoku). However, the number of court judges is small in comparison with the number of court cases submitted for judgment. As a result, court decisions usually take a long time.

In May 2004, the Act Concerning Participation of Lay Assessors in Criminal Trials was passed based on the recommendations of the Judicial Reform Council, which was instituted for a two-year period beginning July 1999. The lay judge system, in which ordinary individuals chosen from among Japans citizens deliberate alongside judges at designated criminal trials, went into effect on May 21, 2009. The first trial under the new system took place on August 3 at the Tokyo District Court.




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Page last modified: 23-02-2016 18:10:32 ZULU