Japan’s Project to Simplify Courtroom Language - Mami Okawara


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This presentation introduces Japan’s first plain language project carried out by legal experts in collaboration with non-legal experts.

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Japan’s Project to Simplify Courtroom Language - Mami Okawara

  1. 1. Japan’s Project to Simplify Courtroom Language Mami Hiraike Okawara Plenary Session: Clarity around the World, 14 October 2010
  2. 2. Overview 1. Lay Judge (saiban-in) System 2. Plain Language Project 3. Survey Results 4. Effects on Legal and Lay Worlds
  3. 3. Lay Judge (saiban-in) System 1. Jury System (1928~1943?) 2. Lay Judge System (2009~) (1) A term of One Case (2) 3 Professional Judges + 6 Lay Judges (3) Guity/Not Guilty + Penalties (4) Heinous Cases (5) No Options of Lay Judge Trials for Defendants
  4. 4. Plain Language Project 1. 28 May 2004 New Law concerning Criminal Trials with Lay Judges 2. August of 2004 Japan Federation of Bar Associations Lay-Judge Preparatory Headquarters Project to Simplify Courtroom Language Project Members 5 Non-Legal Experts 8 Legal Experts
  5. 5. Survey Results 1. Survey Lay Perception on of Legalese 2. Rewording Work ‘Suppression of Rebellion’ v. ‘Suppression of Resistance’ 3. Results
  6. 6. Lay Perception on Legalese 1. 3 Features to be Identified (1) Type of Legal Terms Lay Felt They Knew (2) How Lay People Actually Understood Terms They Had Indicated They Knew (3) Type of Vocabulary Lay Used When Explaining ‘Known Words’ 2. Selection of 50 Legal Terms
  7. 7. Lay Perception on Legalese 3. Cognitive Interview (46 lay respondents) Question (1) Have you heard (this word)? Yes → Question (2) No → End of Question Question (2) How well do you know (this word)? Very well Well Neither well nor no Not well Not at all
  8. 8. Lay Perception on Legalese 4. Degrees of Importance of 50 Words (29 Lawyers) Question (3) How important do you think of (this word) in Courtroom? Very Important Important Neither Important nor Unimportant Unimportant Very Unimportant
  9. 9. Lay Perception on Legalese Findings (1) Strong Correlation between Lawyers’ Important-Word Feelings and Lays’ Heard-of-Feelings (2) Weak Correlation between Lawyers’ Important-Word Feelings and Lays’ Already-Known Feelings
  10. 10. Lay Perception on Legalese Classification of 50 Words (a) Important but Not Known (b) Important and Well-Known (c) Not Important but Well-Known (d) Neither Important Nor Known
  11. 11. Rewording Work ‘Suppression of Rebellion’ (hankou no yokuatsu) mandatory in charging facts in a robbery case robbery ≠ theft the defendant used force or imposed fear on the victim in order to prevent resistance the defendant ‘suppressed the victim’s rebellion and stole 32,000 yen from the victim’s bag….
  12. 12. Rewording Work ‘Suppression of Rebellion’ English: justifiable grounds to suppress rebellious people Japanese: suppression=a more justifiable notion rebellion= an anti-authority type of action a policeman suppressed the defendant’s rebellious conduct? or the defendant suppressed the victim’s resistance?
  13. 13. Rewording Work ‘Suppression of Rebellion’ or ‘Suppression of Resistance’ Resistance=an attack consists of fighting back against the people who have attacked one Rebellion=an attack consists of fighting back against the people who have attacked one + the defendant’s threat is strong enought that the victim cannot fight it back
  14. 14. Results 1. 2005 Interim Report on 16 Legal Terms 2. 2008 Book on 61 Legal Terms for Lay Book on 61 Legal Terms for Legal Experts 3. 2010 Electric Dictionary with 61 Legal Terms for Lay
  15. 15. Story v Fact Opening Statement ‘a story read by a public prosecutor or a defense counsel at the beginning of the examination of evidence’ Article 296 of the Code of Criminal Procedure ‘at the outset of the examination of evidence, a public prosecutor shall make clear the facts to be proved by evidence’ legal ‘fact’≠lay ‘fact’
  16. 16. Effects 1) Legal World Improvement of Comprehensibility in Trials 2) Lay World Interest in Legal Language and Legal World