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Deliberative Democracy and the Japanese Saiban-in (Lay Judge) Trial System

  • Noboru YANASE (a1)

Since May 2009, public participation in the criminal justice system, known as saiban-in seido (trial system by lay judges), has been implemented in Japan. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the law-making process of the saiban-in system and present an evaluation of the system from the perspective of deliberative democracy. This paper concludes that, contrary to criticism from those who want to introduce a purer form of jury trial dominated by lay jurors, the current saiban-in system, which mixes three professional judges with six saiban-ins, should be viewed positively from the perspective of deliberative democracy.

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Associate Professor of Constitutional Law, College of Law, Nihon University. LL.M. Keio University, 2002; Ph.D. Keio University, 2009. This research is supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Grant-in-Aid Scientific Research (KAKENHI #257800166 and #16K03301). An earlier version of this paper was partly presented as “Concepts of Democracy in the Legislative Process of the Saiban-in System” at the fourth East Asian Law & Society Conference in Tokyo, Japan, held on 4–6 August 2015. The author would like to thank Setsuo Miyazawa for organizing the session on “Democracy and the Lay Judge System in Japan.” The author is also grateful to Malcolm Feeley, Satoru Shinomiya, and Dimitri Vanoverbeke for their detailed comments and suggestions. The author would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their thorough reviews, and highly appreciates their comments and suggestions, which contributed to improving the quality of this paper. Correspondence to Noboru Yanase, 2-3-1 Misaki-chou, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-8375, Japan. E-mail address:

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