Introduction: who rules Japan?
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‘The first thing we do’, wrote Shakespeare in Henry VI, ‘let’s kill all the lawyers’. Four hundred years later, Japan embarked on a decidedly anti-Shakespearian strategy – the reinvention of Japan from a bureaucratic-led administrative state (eg, Upham, 1987) to a law-led judicial state. A central plank of this strategy, according to the 2001 report by the Justice System Reform Council (‘Recommendations of the Justice System Reform Council- For a Justice System to Support Japan in the 21st Century, the Justice System Reform Council’), was tripling the population of lawyers (bengoshi), judges and public prosecutors. But the Council’s reform blueprint went further than this. Aimed at bringing the legal system closer to the people (Foote, 2007), the Council proposed reconceiving legal education from generalist undergraduate degrees to specialist legal training at dedicated postgraduate law schools. Ex ante administrative action would give way to ex post judicial relief. Ordinary citizens would be involved in judging cases. The court system would receive capacity-boosting investment in technical research expertise to support the speedy resolution of intellectual property disputes. Access to justice would be widened; execution of judgments and legal remedies strengthened and expanded.
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