Washington International Law Journal


Carl F. Goodman


The recent amendments to Japan’s Inquest of Prosecution Law (popularly called the Prosecution Review Commission (“PRC”) Law) give the eleven lay member PRC (and their court appointed lawyers) unreviewable authority to compel the prosecutions and appeals of defendants who the professional prosecutor service has determined do not require indictment and prosecution. Viewed as “democratic” because it brings lay participation to the criminal justice system, the PRC process differs sharply from the American Federal Grand Jury because it places ordinary citizens at risk of potential retribution and the political system at risk of possible “gaming” of the process for political advantage, much as was the case with the Special Prosecutor’s Law in the United States. To date, PRCs have compelled prosecution of five defendants (of whom two have been found not guilty), one indictment has been dismissed, one defendant is being tried for professional negligence after the professionals on whose advice he relied were found not guilty (in a prosecution by professional prosecutors), and one is on trial despite a serious statute of limitations question. The indictment of a powerful political figure (found not guilty but the court appointed prosecutors have appealed) had serious political repercussions in Japan and caused political turmoil in the first non-Liberal Democratic Party majority elected party and government in the Post War era. This article reviews the PRC experience in comparison to the U.S. experience with the Special Prosecutor Law and the prosecutions mandated by the PRC to date. Five changes to the PRC process are suggested that, while allowing citizen participation in the indictment and prosecution process, would preserve the rights of those accused and protect the national interest.

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