Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Judges urged to take active role in lay judge system

"In a model plan drawn up for the new lay judge system to be introduced next May, the Supreme Court stressed the need for judges to take a leading role in the system, it has been learned.

"The top court came up with the plan after examining national simulated trials in preparation for the new lay judge system, according to sources close to the top court.

"The plan stressed the need for judges to take proactive roles in the lay judge system, requesting that they lead court proceedings so that the questioning of witnesses is focused on disputed points and is carried out in an understandable manner.

"The model plan, which was presented to the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, is expected to serve as a guideline for trials under the lay judge system, the sources said.

"District courts across the country held about 350 simulated trials in which ordinary citizens took part as lay judges.

"The Supreme Court's Criminal Affairs Bureau analyzed problems from the mock trials and feedback from those who acted as lay judges. This data was reflected in the model plan, the sources said.

"Analysis showed that judges tended to refrain from making statements during court discussions with lay judges before agreeing on a ruling. Judges apparently were afraid of being criticized for leading lay judges to conclusions.

"When it became difficult to reach an agreement, however, judges occasionally jumped to conclusions, sometimes commenting that they had made a similar decisions on other cases.

"To avoid this type of situation, the model plan suggested that judges should better communicate with lay judges. The plan suggests that judges talk to lay judges outside the courtroom, so that they can carefully address lay judges' questions and concerns.

"The plan also referenced judges' roles when witnesses are questioned, suggesting that they focus on points of dispute.

"In the past, court proceedings often were prolonged because of unnecessary witness questioning. Because of this, the plan suggested that judges should exert leadership if questioning extends far longer than the scheduled time.

"The plan also presented an example of a ruling in four pages, including points of dispute and relevant conclusions as well as the determination of punishments."

By Yomiuri Shimbun(6/21/2008), Link to article (last visited 6/21/2008)

No comments: