Law professors lead jury trial training seminar in Tokyo
For the second time in less than a year, the Japanese Bar Association invited two Beasley School of Law professors to conduct a jury trial advocacy training seminar, in anticipation of jury trials returning to Japan in 2009.
Edward Ohlbaum, professor of law and director of trial advocacy and clinical legal education, and JoAnne Epps, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs, traveled to Tokyo in July. The professors led a similar program for the bar’s members last November.
Ohlbaum and Epps also met with representatives of Japan’s Supreme Court, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Japanese Bar’s Jury Trial Project Team to discuss teaching methods and materials and other issues that Japanese legislators, the judiciary and bar will confront when jury trials recommence.
Temple University Japan, which has the only ABA-accredited semester-abroad program offered by an American law school in Asia, sponsored the seminar along with Nichibenren, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Approximately 150 criminal practitioners attended the seminar, while another 1,000 members viewed the session via live simulcast to 66 locations throughout Japan.
Ohlbaum and Epps expanded on the building blocks of trial advocacy and demonstrated a criminal case, emphasizing lawyers’ responsibilities when trying cases before Saiban-in, Japan’s newly proposed jury trial system.
In Saiban-in, six general citizens are randomly selected out of the electoral register and are joined by three professional judges, one of which will be the presiding judge over the trial, to deliberate on a verdict and sentence in serious criminal cases.
“The opportunity to help develop advocacy skills of more than 1,000 Japanese lawyers was both exciting and sobering,” Epps said. “When jury trials return, lawyers will have an increased opportunity to affect the outcome of cases. We hoped to both teach and inspire them to be meaningful players in the trial of criminal cases,” she said.
“Japanese trial lawyers will have to develop the skills to first persuade the ‘citizen jurors’ that it is they and not the judges who can have the last word,” Ohlbaum added. “Once they learn how to ‘empower’ the jurors, they can begin to persuade them. Our training program is structured to give members of the Japanese Bar an introduction to those jury trial skills that will be vital.”
Ohlbaum hopes to conduct such trial advocacy training seminars on an annual basis and is drafting a proposal for the Law School to establish a criminal defense lawyer institute in Japan that would include a jury trial training component to give legal professionals hands-on experience in a courtroom setting.
Ranked second in trial advocacy by U.S. News & World Report, the Law School offers an innovative student-centered curriculum that integrates both critical thinking and practical legal skills. Since 1999, Temple has awarded more than 500 master of laws degrees to Chinese students participating in its trial advocacy program, the only foreign law degree-granting program in China, approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education and the ABA. As part of the 15-month curriculum, 38 students attended courses this summer on Main Campus.
By Jennifer Wasilisin
For the Temple Times