First Advisor

Bruce Gilley

Term of Graduation


Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science


Political Science




Local government -- Japan -- Citizen participation, Lay judges -- Japan, Jurisprudence -- Japan, Political participation -- Japan



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 175 pages)


In May of 2009, Japan began formal operations of the "saiban-in seido" or "lay judge system," a quasi-jury means of criminal trial adjudication that represents the first occasion since 1943 that average Japanese citizens will be required to fulfill a role in the criminal jurisprudential process. While the lay judge system promises to affect the methods and procedures of criminal trials in Japan, recent scholarship in the United States has raised an interesting question: to what degree can the lay participatory adjudication process facilitate greater levels of civic engagement in past citizen jurists once their service has completed?

It is with this question in mind that the Japanese lay judge system is examined. In this work I first analyze how the Japanese judicial system fits within the global context, measuring it against the adversarial and inquisitorial archetypes that are followed by other liberal democracies. I then look to describe how lay adjudication is handled elsewhere around the world, finding that two major systems are employed - the Anglo-American jury and the European mixed-tribunal - with the Japanese lay judge system bearing great resemblance towards the latter. In investigating the origins of the lay judge system, and the changes this new method brings to Japanese criminal jurisprudence, I seek to detail the goals of this recent reform and the opportunities the lay judge system has to realize those aims. Finally, I look to how lay participation in the courtroom can inspire individuals to be more civically active once their service at trial is finished. In this pursuit, I look to relevant theoretical literature that describes how deliberative participation can spur further participation in civil society, as well as recent research in the United States that document linkages between jury service and an individual`s later inclination to be more civically engaged. With this evidence in hand, I return the focus to Japan and the lay judge system and ask what results can be expected under this new system.

As sufficient data is not readily available to make definitive declarations as to the civic engagement-enhancing potential of the lay judge system - due to the relative newness of the institution - this thesis instead offers theories and hypotheses that may prove fruitful to later investigations on this very question. Moreover, I examine opinions prevalent in the current literature that would question the ability of the lay judge system to invigorate the civic engagement-tendencies of past lay jurists and analyze their veracity. In this manner, I seek to provide future research in this area with a more stable footing to proceed.


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