Saturday, April 25, 2009

"New organ donation bill seeks to abolish age limit

"A blueprint for a new bill to revise the Organ Transplant Law being drawn up by lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan combines elements from older bills by abolishing the age limit on organ donors and would have brain death declared only if organ donation were at stake, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Friday.

"Three bills related to organ donation have been submitted to the Diet so far. The new blueprint incorporates parts of two of these bills in an effort to expand the potential for transplants.

"The lawmakers, along with concerned lawmakers from ruling coalition partner New Komeito, aim to submit the new bill in mid-May.

"Former Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita, an LDP lawmaker and top board member on the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare, and DPJ lower house member Osamu Fujimura, aim to revise the law during the current Diet session.

"Among the three bills submitted to the Diet, the first one stipulates that brain- dead people would be declared legally dead without exception, and that age limits for organ donors would be abolished. The second bill seeks to change the age limit from "15 years old and older" to "12 years old and older." The third bill seeks to more strictly define brain death.

"The new bill adopts parts from the first bill in terms of the age limit and elements found in the second bill that address the definition of brain death. The lawmakers aim to win over more lawmakers to the revision of the law with their goal of allowing organ transplants from children.

"Aside from age restrictions, the new bill maintains the basic conditions for organ donations stipulated by the current law, which requires that donors have written documents stating their will to be organ donors and stipulating their families' consent.

"The new bill, however, would not require donors under 15 to present written intent to be a donor. However, the lawmakers also intend to include measures in the new bill to stipulate the establishment of an ethics committee or similar organization in hospitals to look into potential child abuse and others causes that could have caused donors' deaths."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (4/25/2009), Link to article (last visited 4/25/2009)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Law school quotas set to be slashed

"Japan is churning out too many law students, fueling concern about low success rates in bar exams and the quality of those entering the legal profession.

"Against this background, the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University have decided to cut annual admission quotas to their law schools by 20 percent from the next school year beginning April 2010, sources said.

"With the aim of improving overall quality, the two prestigious national universities opted to reduce admissions in line with an education ministry policy to cut back on student quotas at all 74 law schools around the nation, the sources said.

"Other national universities are expected to follow suit.

"The planned reduction is expected to have a major impact on law schools, which were established in 2004 as a pillar of judicial system reforms, analysts said.

"In 2002, the government set a goal of raising the number of successful annual bar exam candidates to 3,000 by the 2010 school year. But it remains uncertain if the target can be achieved.

"A key reason for the deterioration in the quality of students is that law schools were set up one after another around the nation.

"Initially, total student enrollment at the law schools was expected to be about 4,000. With universities promoting their law schools to attract students, however, the total figure swelled to about 5,800.

"Despite the rush of applicants, only about 30 percent of the total number of graduates passed the annual bar exam under a new system in 2008, which was much lower than the initially anticipated success rate of 70 to 80 percent.

"Some law schools have yet to produce a single successful examinee.

"Experts say the quality of education and the aptitude of those studying at law schools have deteriorated.

"They also point to a decrease in the level of even judicial trainees who passed the bar exams and are undergoing training as law specialists.

"Judges and lawyers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of having such a large number of law school students. This issue has also come to the attention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"With 300 spots, the University of Tokyo has the largest annual law school quota among national universities. It plans to reduce the figure to 240 from the next school year.

""We made the decision, along with reviews of the curriculum, in an effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of our education," said Masahito Inoue, dean of the university's graduate school for law and politics.

"Kyoto University also plans to slash its admission quota from 200 to 160.

""We believe it has become necessary to raise the ratio of successful examinees for law schools as a whole," said Katsumi Yamamoto, a senior official of the law school.

"A special committee of the Central Council for Education, an advisory board to the education minister, issued a final report Friday with recommendations to improve the quality of the nation's law schools.

"The minister, Ryu Shionoya, plans to deliver the recommendations to law schools, urging them to abide by the proposals.

"The report said schools that don't have twice as many applicants as their quota should reduce their quota the following year.

"One-third of the nation's law schools fit this category in the 2008 school year.

"According to executives of the Japan Association of Law Schools, the majority of the 23 national universities will cut annual admission quotas for their law schools by 10 to 30 percent.

"Tokyo's Waseda University, which has a quota of 300, is considering reducing the number from the 2011 school year. Chuo University, which accepts the same number of students, has no plans to cut back."

By Tomoya Ishikawa, Fumiaki Onishi and Manabu Aoike (Asahi Shimbun, 4/18/2009), Link to article (last visited 4/18/2009)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Supreme Court acquits professor of groping charges

"The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted a professor of charges he molested a female student on a packed train in Tokyo, overturning guilty verdicts that were based entirely on the teenager's testimony.

"It was the first time the top court has given an innocent verdict in a groping case.

"The Supreme Court's Third Petty Bench said the lower courts' rulings that sentenced Masahiro Nagura, 63, a professor at the National Defense Medical College, to 22 months in prison lacked necessary prudence.

"Three of the five justices supported the innocent ruling for Nagura, who is now on temporary leave from his college, while two said the guilty verdict should stand.

"The Supreme Court said that "especially prudent judgment is required" in cases of molestation on trains because it is difficult for police and prosecutors to gather objective evidence. In addition, the court said, the suspect will have a difficult time formulating a defense after being accused of groping.

"The ruling will likely force prosecutors to be more cautious on deciding whether to indict suspects based only on the testimonies of the accusers.

"Judges may also take a tougher approach to accepting prosecutors' arguments that are based on limited evidence. Police officers will be required to collect more scientific evidence, such as fibers and bodily fluids, in groping cases.

"Prosecutors indicted Nagura on charges he molested a 17-year-old senior high school student in a packed train on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on the morning of April 18, 2006. They said he inserted his hand inside the teenager's underwear and fondled her.

"The only evidence against Nagura was the girl's statement that she had been sexually assaulted.

"There were no witnesses. And police found no fibers from the girl's underwear on Nagura's hands.

"Nagura insisted he was innocent. But the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court both found him guilty, saying the girl's testimony was credible.

"However, the Third Petty Bench noted flaws in the lower courts' rulings.

""Reasonable doubt still remains on the claim that Nagura committed the crime," the ruling said.

"The top court said that Nagura's character does not fit the profile of a molester.

"The ruling also noted that after the alleged molestation began, the girl left the train but returned to the same car and stood near the professor.

"The ruling cast doubt on the testimony of the girl, saying that if the molestation had been persistent as she claimed, she would have made a more serious effort to avoid it.

"Recognizing that prosecutors had no new evidence to present, the top court did not return the case to the lower courts but ruled that Nagura is innocent.

"According to the Supreme Court, the top court has given innocent rulings to only 16 suspects since 1980. In rare cases like Nagura's, the top court did so because it deemed the lower courts' rulings were based on an erroneous recognition of the facts."

By Asahi Shimbun (4/15/2009), Link to article (last visited 4/15/2009)

Noriko Calderon’s Case

"Despite being Japan's most densely populated area, Warabi rarely causes a blip on the national media radar.

"Set in a rusting corner of Saitama Prefecture, the city has two minor recent claims to fame: a communist mayor and the 13-year-old daughter of illegal Filipino immigrants.

"An odd place perhaps for two groups with radically different visions of Japan to take to the streets, but this is where neo-nationalists and liberal opponents could be found slugging it out last weekend.

"On one side, a party of nationalists crammed into a small park and listened to ringleader Makoto Sakurai, a rising new-right star who turns out for protests in a three-piece suit and watch chain.

""People in other countries are looking at this case very carefully," Sakurai told the crowd to cheers of "Send illegal foreigners home!" "They see that we are a soft touch. If we allow this girl to stay, many more will come. It's totally unacceptable."

"Some of the nationalists handed out copies of an article from a Manila newspaper "proving" that the case had received a lot of publicity in the Philippines. "Filipinos now know that if they have a child illegally in Japan, the child will win special rights," said Takehiro Tanaka.

"Hemmed in behind police with riot shields, a group of counterdemonstrators were kept half a kilometer away near Warabi Station. "They're racists," spat Ryo Hagitani. "Please don't mistake their views for those of ordinary people. Japanese people don't support them. We want foreigners to come here."

"Noriko Calderon, the unwitting target of all this attention, would have heard Sakurai from the cramped Warabi apartment she shares with her Filipino parents. But she was miles away with her mother, thanking supporters who had backed their fight to stay in Japan.

"Last month, the family's six-month legal battle ended when Justice Minister Eisuke Mori gave Noriko a one-year special residence permit, allowing her to live with her aunt and continue school in this city. Her parents, Arlan and Sarah, who came to Japan in the early 1990s on false passports, were sent back to the Philippines on Monday.

(...)"

By David McNEILL (Japan Times, 4/14/2009), Link to article (last visited 4/15/2009)