The Asahi Shimbun today condemned efforts by some local bar associations to cancel a government plan to increase the number of lawyers in Japan.
The question that must be asked here is whether the serious problem of areas without enough lawyers has been fixed. Each district under the jurisdiction of a court needs at least two attorneys because both the plaintiff and the defendant need legal counsel. Of the 203 districts under the jurisdiction of a local branch of a district court, however, three have no practicing lawyer at all, and 21 have only one. In 2006, the Japan Legal Support Center known as Houterasu was created as part of the judicial reform to offer legal counsel to citizens across the nation. But the organization has so far secured only one-third of the 300 lawyers it needs to provide the services it is supposed to offer. In spring next year, a new saiban-in citizen judge system will be launched for citizen participation in the judicial process. Court hearings will be held day after day under the system to shorten trials. A shortage of lawyers would be clear.