Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The Authors introduce and critique Japan's proposed quasi-jury or lay assessor system (saiban-in seido). The proposed mixed-court will have judges and lay people deciding together both guilt and sentences in serious criminal cases. Its proponents have promised that the lay assessor system will produce better justice in the courts and a more democratic society for Japan. The Authors first expose the competing interests in the lay assessor drafting process, examining their subtly but importantly varied proposals. Second, the Authors historically review lay participation in Japan, arguing that it has failed to deliver better justice and more democracy because the existing systems have been marginalized by disuse or captured by law specialists. Third, the Authors consider the proposal in light of international psychology research suggesting that early criticism of the system may be circumspect. The Authors conclude with cautious optimism regarding the potential of the new Japanese system and a call for more research to fine-tune the proposal and rightfully introduce it as a comparative global model.