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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 4 No 1 (2002)

Narrowing the Avenues to Japan's Supreme Court: The Policy Implications of Japan's Code of Civil Procedure Reforms

Masako Kamiya is Professor of Law, Gakushuin University, Tokyo. This article was originally presented as a paper at the Asian Law Centre, University of Melbourne Conference 'Legal Crisis? Japan and Asia' in August 1999.

The role of Japan's Supreme Court has been subject to controversy and debate since its establishment under the 1947 Constitution. The 1996 amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, which took effect in 1998, limit the type of cases that may be appealed to the Supreme Court. The rationale is that the court is now freer to concentrate on constitutional interpretation, important questions of law and unifying law through authoritative interpretation of statutes. The reforms promise enhanced efficiency for Japan's judicial system while avoiding the difficult political issue of restructuring the Supreme Court itself. This article argues, however, that the historical debates surrounding the form and function of the Supreme Court point to hidden costs in resolving the court's caseload 'problem'. In particular, the de facto reorganisation of the Supreme Court's role has been achieved without adequate public debate or consideration of the likely impact on procedural justice for litigants or the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself.

(2002) 4(1) Asian Law 53

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