Japan - Covid-19 IP Update: Impact On Litigation.
Legal News & Analysis - Asia Pacific - Japan - Dispute Resolution
24 March, 2020
Most proceedings before the courts of Japan appear to be continuing as usual, at least for now. Under Japanese law, whether and how a hearing date is fixed or rescheduled ultimately depends on the judge or panel of judges in charge of the case.
However, the courts are encouraging parties and counsel who are due to attend a hearing to let the relevant court know if any attendee has any symptoms such as a fever. In such a case, the court will take a flexible approach and reschedule any relevant hearing dates, or take any other appropriate measures, in order to prevent further propagation of Covid-19. In addition, the courts have requested that any potential visitors to the court to refrain from doing so if they have any symptoms such as a fever. Most courts are instructing courtroom visitors to leave sufficient distance between individuals to minimise the propagation of Covid-19 in courtrooms.
Further, most courts are requesting their visitors (including those attending hearings) to let the court know if they need to appear in court but have health concerns (such as feeling unwell, being relatively older, or having an underlying disease). In that case, we reasonably expect that the court would make appropriate accommodations to the extent possible. Also, most courts are encouraging their visitors to wear masks while they are in a court building.
According to public media sources, while most civil proceedings are unlikely to be affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 at the moment, certain courts have instructed the postponement of jury trials that are to take place in criminal proceedings: the courts have considered it is not appropriate to ask a number of lay people to attend jury trials in the light of Covid-19.
Given the rapidly changing situation, the courts of Japan may adjust their position as appropriate. We recommend following the press releases of the courts and more general news sources in the coming days and weeks.