Newly implemented judicial reform in Japan and the impact on its legal interpreting and translation
Mamoru Tsuda, Osaka University Global Collaboration Center, Board Member, Japan Association for Interpreting and Translation Studies
For the last several years Japan has undergone a major judicial reform that includes a system in which the citizens participate in the criminal court proceedings. Japan is among the last countries that introduced the similar system, called Saiban-in System, among the developed countries. In this new system, implemented only in the May 2009 and applied only for serious cases such as Homicide, Rape, Arson, and Narcotics Provision Law violations, the three professional judges and six lay (citizen) judges join together for not only hearing the testimonies, evaluating evidence, but also deliberate and make decisions both on guilt and on the sentence. The hearings are scheduled usually for three to five consecutive days.
It has been a great change and challenge for court interpreters. While 7 or 8 percent of such cases in Japan are expected to be the ones with no-Japanese speaking defendants who need the interpreting, there is no existence yet in the country of any public certification system for court interpreters and a clear rules or regulations as to how the interpreting and translation services are to be provided. On what ground the court will appoint the interpreter/s? Are the interpreter/s to be appointed going to do the job during the “pre-trial arrangement proceedings” that usually require 3-6 months before the actual hearings begin, and how? What are the expected duties and responsibilities?
As an experienced (for over 23 years) court interpreter himself, the paper presenter hopes to list the major challenges and issues at hand and to appeal for an understanding from the international community of legal interpreters and all concerned.