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E-Litigation will Finally be Available in Japan

posted 2 years ago

On May 18, 2022, the Japanese diet passed the bill to reform the Code of Civil Procedure of Japan (the “Reform”). This Reform aims to implement e-litigation at Japanese courts. In principle, the current law of civil procedure does not allow e-filing or online hearings. The litigants must submit their written submissions to the courts by hand, post, or facsimile. Online witness hearings are only available under limited circumstances. Unfortunately, court proceedings were almost shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19, and litigants had to wait for a longer period for justice by the courts because of the very limited availability of online procedure. The Reform will come into force in several phases by 2025. This article covers the outline of this Reform.

  1. E-Filing

The Reform introduces e-filing as the new standard procedure. The courts will use a new online platform. The Reform requires the plaintiff to submit their complaint or other briefings to the court online if the plaintiff is represented by a counsel. Under the current law, the complaint or other briefings may not be submitted online. The Reform will enable the courts, litigants, and their counsel to conduct court procedure in a more environmentally friendly manner without exchanging countless pages of written submissions.

The new online system will store the written submission by the litigants, the records of court hearings, and judgments in a database. The litigants of the case and the interested parties can access them online. Under the current law, the litigants and the interested parties need to visit a courthouse to inspect or copy the case records which the courts store in a physical format.

  1. E-Hearings

The Reform implements e-hearings as well. The litigants and their counsel will be able to participate in oral arguments, witness hearings, and rendering of judgments via a web-conferencing system, none of which are available under the current law. The current law does allow the courts to conduct a limited degree of court procedures via a web conferencing system, but the litigants cannot officially submit their written submissions or evidence at such web conferences.

  1. The Fast Track Procedure

The current Code of Civil Procedure does not provide a standard time limit for a civil procedure from the commencement of the litigation to the judgment. The Reform will implement the fast-track procedure upon the parties’ agreement. The Reform requires that, if both parties agree, the court closes oral arguments within six months of the beginning of the proceedings and renders a judgment within one month from the closure of the oral arguments. The parties of business disputes often expect an expeditious dispute resolution process. Reflecting this expectation, many arbitration institutions provide arbitration rules which have a fast-track or an expedited procedure as the standard rule for smaller cases. The fast-track procedure created by the Reform may provide an alternative solution for parties seeking expeditious dispute resolution.

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