Civil Procedure Reform in Japan

Delay in court has been a problem common in all eras, both ancient and modern, and to all systems of law, Western and Eastern alike. In Japan, however, the problem is arguably more acute. The average delay between filing and judgment for cases that require at least a minimum level of proof-taking or an evidentiary hearing is 27 months. This deplorable reality has recently led to renewed efforts to tackle the problem of delay in Japan. Two groups that have been particularly important in this effort are two local bar associations and the Tokyo and Osaka district courts. The First Tokyo Bar Association and the Second Tokyo Bar Association have each separately published their own recommendations as to how to remedy the situation. The First Tokyo Bar Association’s publication, entitled “A Tentative Draft of a New Civil Procedure Law,” is a radical proposal, while the Second Tokyo Bar Association’s proposal is more or less similar to the more moderate proposals of the Tokyo and Osaka district courts. These proposals are particularly noteworthy because they represent a change of heart by the two bar associations. Like some of the other bar associations in Japan, they were not supportive of attempts at procedural reform in the past. This article will describe and evaluate recent proposals for reform and conclude that the legal community should experiment with the suggested procedural changes. The constitutional, procedural and social implications of the innovative methods will also be considered.