In the 21st century, the role played by the justice system is expected to gain more weight due to various social changes, including changes from the current “advance control and regulation” society to a “post review and remedy” society. Therefore, it is now time to reinforce the functions of the legal services and to establish a new legal system which is readily accessible to the general public.
From this perspective, the Act for Establishment of the Justice System Reform Council was enacted, and the Justice System Reform Council (JSRC) was established in the Cabinet according to that Act in July 1999. The JSRC finished its two-year examination and deliberations in June 2001, and submitted the Recommendations of the JSRC to the Cabinet in which the JSRC suggested that the following issues should be the three pillars of justice system reform: “construction of a justice system that meets the needs of the people”; “reform of the judicial community to support the justice system”; and “establishment of a popular base (participation of the general public in the justice system)”.
The Justice System Reform Promotion Act was enacted in response to the Recommendations and, based on the Act, the Office for Promotion of Justice System Reform (OPJSR) was established within the Cabinet in December 2001 for the purpose of promoting justice system reform in a comprehensive and intensive manner in accordance with the Recommendations. The OPJSR is composed of the Prime Minister (president) and the other Cabinet members. Based on the Plan for Promotion of Justice System Reform which was approved by the Cabinet in March 2002, the OPJSR took the leading part in the project for justice system reform for three years, when many acts were amended and new acts were enacted.
In 2002, relevant acts relating to reform of the legal training system, which included introduction of a graduate law school system and other matters, were enacted. Moreover, a number of acts for civil justice reform were also enacted during the 156th Diet Session (2003 Ordinary Diet Session). Among them were the Act for Expediting Court Procedure that coordinated the institutional base, aiming to adjudicate cases at the first instance within two years by improving and accelerating court proceedings, the Act for Partial Amendment to the Court Organization Act et al. for Justice System Reform which included expansion of the subject matter jurisdiction of the summary courts, the Act for Partial Amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure et al. designed to promote planned proceedings and to establish an expert commissioner system, and the Arbitration Act.
During the 159th Diet Session (2004 Ordinary Diet Session), the Comprehensive Legal Support Act which aimed at creating a society where information and services which are necessary for the settlement of legal disputes are readily available for people all around the country (see "Implementation of Comprehensive Legal Support by the Japan Legal Support Center"), was enacted to establish the Japan Legal Support Center. Further, a number of acts to reform the criminal justice system by introducing a new participation system in criminal proceedings (saiban-in system) which enables the general public to participate in deciding the outcome of trials together with professional judges (see "saiban-in system"), by introducing new pretrial arrangement proceedings to improve and accelerate criminal trials and by establishing a court-appointed defense counsel system for suspects and defendants, were passed. In addition, the Act for Establishment of the Intellectual Property High Court which promotes the improvement and acceleration of cases involving intellectual property rights, the Act for Partial Amendment to the Administrative Cases Litigation Act aiming at coordination of the procedures for effective remedies for people’s rights and interests, the Labor Dispute Adjudication Act which establishes a labor dispute adjudication system as a new type of dispute resolution, where those who have specialized knowledge and experience related to labor affairs participate in the proceedings and other acts were enacted.
During the 161st Diet Session (2004 Extraordinary Diet Session), the Act on Promotion of Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution introducing a certification system by the Minister of Justice for private enterprises’ ADR services and other laws were enacted.
In addition, law-related education has become increasingly more important and it is necessary to continue to promote such education so that a new justice system built up by this justice system reform might be realized on the basis of firm support by the people (see "Promotion and Development of Law-Related Education").
Many of those acts have already been enforced and related measures have been taken. The justice system reform has begun to bear fruit. For example, in 2005, the Intellectual Property High Court was established. In 2006, a new bar exam based on graduate law school curricula was carried out and the Japan Legal Support Center was established and has commenced operations.
After the above mentioned work, it is also necessary to ensure that the results of the justice system reform firmly take root in order for the justice system to be able to exercise its functions fully and for those results to register completely in the minds of the people. From this perspective, the Ministry of Justice has organized a project team to publicize the new participation system in criminal proceedings.
Moreover, the Committee for Promotion of Justice System Reform in the Ministry of Justice is held when necessary in order to comprehensively promote justice system reform. The Committee is composed of the Vice-Minister (the chairman), and the Deputy Vice-Minister and all the Director-Generals, in which eight external learned persons participate as consultants.
From the viewpoint of having jurisdiction over the justice system, the Ministry of Justice is ready to take appropriate measures to fulfill requirements in the new coming period taking account of the aims of justice system reform.
(Judicial System Department, Civil Affairs Bureau, and Criminal Affairs Bureau)