Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lawyer Shortage and the Lay Judge System

"At least five of the nation's 52 bar associations think it will be difficult to secure enough defense lawyers when the lay judge system is introduced on May 21 next year, according to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

"About 60 percent of the 52 bar associations said they had no additional lawyers available with the necessary legal skills to work when the planned lay judge system is introduced. Only three associations said they would have no difficulties securing enough lawyers.

"The system is likely to collapse if any of the nation's regions fails to secure enough defense lawyers. With only a year left until the introduction of the system, this issue will need to be addressed immediately to ensure there is a sufficient supply of defense lawyers when the system is launched.

"The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted the survey between late April and early May, and received answers from 40 out of 52 bar associations. There are bar associations in each prefecture, four bar associations in Hokkaido and three in Tokyo.

"Asked if they would be able to secure enough lawyers with the necessary defense skills to deal with cases to be tried under the lay judge system, the associations in Gifu, Wakayama, Shimane and Kagawa prefectures expressed pessimism, saying, "it will be difficult." The Aichi Bar Association said, "it'll be hard in the Mikawa region."

"Only three associations in Tokyo, Osaka and Oita prefectures expressed confidence in securing enough lawyers. Of the remaining associations, 30 said they would "barely manage to secure sufficient numbers." The remaining two organizations said they would "make preparations to ensure [a sufficient supply of lawyers]."

"Many of the associations expressing concern are already suffering a chronic shortage of lawyers. The Shimane Bar Association has only 39 members, the fewest in the nation.

"Referring to a new scheme to shorten the length of trials that will be introduced as part of the lay judge system, a member of the Shimane association told The Yomiuri Shimbun that attendance at consecutive daily court hearings could interfere with lawyers' existing work.

"Asked about the system's problems, many associations said the planned fee for a court-appointed lawyer representing a defendant of limited means would be too low as they would only get 100,000 yen for trials concluded in a day.

"Many also complained about the conventional management of the public defense system, which usually assigns only one defense lawyer to each case, despite the difficulties consecutive daily hearings will create for lawyers under the lay judge system.

"In February, the Niigata Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for the delay of the introduction of the lay judge system, saying there was a risk trials would be carried out in a rushed, slipshod manner.

"The Supreme Court has also expressed its concern about the possible shortage of defense lawyers.

"A Supreme Court judge said, "If many defendants are unable to secure suitable defense lawyers, this could shake public confidence in the lay judge system itself.""

By Yomiuri Shimbun (5/22/2008), Link to article (last visited 5/22/2008)

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