The Tokyo District Court head office has jurisdiction over an area with a high concentration of administrative agencies. The area is also the base for headquarters of many corporations, and is the political/economic center of Japan. It goes without saying that the court handles a high number of specialized and complex lawsuits which include advanced legal issues. For example, when looking back on my experience in general divisions, there were lawsuits seeking damages related to the consummation of contracts for the development of computer software (IT-related lawsuits). Damages were sought for failure to complete the desired product, or for defects in the completed products. When handling such cases, it is often difficult to find facts regarding the type of product for which creation had been agreed upon. In such cases, judges face the issue of how to handle basic knowledge in software, a specialized field which is difficult to visualize. Specifically, judges must determine how to share such knowledge with parties in the lawsuit. Furthermore, there are also cases in which individuals who incurred damages after purchasing financial products (structured bonds, etc.) seek compensation based on failure to fulfill obligation of accountability, etc. In such cases, judges are often required to work extremely hard to understand the structure of those financial products. The nuclear accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake has led to a large number of lawsuits claiming damages. In litigation claiming that the Japanese national government failed to exercise its regulatory authority, there is the need for specialized knowledge regarding safety measures, etc. for nuclear reactors. Lawsuits seeking damage compensation from nuclear power plant operators contain a variety of problems in terms of finding the scope of damages for which the nuclear accident has legally sufficient cause, including personal damage, business damage, and damage caused by harmful rumors.
Moreover, in conjunction with the spread of the internet, there are a large number of provisional orders and lawsuits seeking compensation for damage caused to reputation or privacy due to expressions posted on the internet. In this respect, as shown by a recent case in which the Supreme Court of Japan issued the first unified decision, courts are sometimes expected to determine standards for handling the conflict between the moral interests known as the “right to be forgotten”, and freedom of expression and the right of access.
There is also an obvious trend of internationalization of litigation with the globalization of economic activities. Speaking from my experience in the bankruptcy rehabilitation division, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of bankruptcy cases involving foreign creditors. Responses to lawsuits filed in foreign countries are becoming daily issues for the Tokyo District Court. Furthermore, in a bankruptcy case for the bitcoin exchange company, there was the issue of facilitating smooth filing of proof of claims by approximately 120,000 creditors throughout the world. In such cases, the internet is sometimes used.
Frequently, these cases are handled as panel cases (cases in which trial and verdict are handled by 3 judges). Frankly speaking, I feel that the number of complex and difficult cases is increasing. Currently, the specialty, complexity, diversity of values, and international aspects of cases are continuing to increase at an accelerated rate. Amidst such conditions, courts must enhance and strengthen their consultation. Divisions must utilize their full capabilities, including both offices of judges and offices of clerks. At the same time, it is necessary to ascertain the background and essence of problems raised in each lawsuit. Regarding issues in dispute for which parties to litigation desire judgment, courts must conduct intensive investigation of evidence within the corresponding trial period, and must strive to present a resolution which is as persuasive as possible.