Washington International Law Journal


Japan has a career judiciary. The Courts Act of 1947 provides that judges may be appointed from among prosecutors, attorneys, and law professors. In practice, however, the vast majority of judges come from a fourth category, “assistant judges,” who are appointed directly upon completion of the legal training program and typically serve through retirement. This continues a career tradition that dates back to the late nineteenth century. For nearly that long, the Japanese bar has been advocating that the career system should be abolished and that a substantial portion of the judiciary, if not all judges, should be drawn from among experienced attorneys. The Justice System Reform Council (“JSRC”), which met from 1999 through 2001, strongly endorsed the importance of diversification of the judiciary, and set forth a two-pronged proposal for achieving that goal: 1) establishing a system through which assistant judges would “leave their status as judges” and “gather diversified experience” outside the judiciary and 2) promoting increased hiring of experienced attorneys and others to the bench. Utilizing the framework for analyzing court reform set forth by Malcolm Feeley in his classic work, Court Reform on Trial: Why Simple Solutions Fail, this Article examines the various efforts at diversification of the Japanese judiciary, with a special focus on the most recent set of reforms.

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