Vigorously defending a client’s interests at trial is what many people consider to be the defining feature of a lawyer’s job, and the ability to fight for a client in court is what separates Bengoshi from the variety of other legal professions in Japan. Trials in Japan normally take place in front of a single judge or a three judge panel. There are no juries in Japan, although the government recently introduced a jury-like system of lay-judges for certain criminal cases. Non-party witnesses will usually be examined before either the petitioner or the respondent take the stand. The party that called the witness will ask questions first. This questioning is followed by the other party’s cross-examination. Finally, the judge or judges may ask their own questions of the witness, although the presiding judge does not need to wait and is allowed to interrupt with questions at any point. Witnesses are required to take an oath and answer the questions truthfully and to the best of their ability. In certain cases where the witness lives far from the courthouse or might be intimidated by appearing in court, examination of the witness may be conducted by video conference.
If you have questions about litigation in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.