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District courts in Tokyo and seven other cities are to begin using web meetings in February 2020 to connect judges and counsel online to help make necessary preparations for lawsuits easier, according to judicial sources reported by The Japan Times.
The new system is designed to allow those involved in civil lawsuits to share materials and confirm the claims of both plaintiffs and defendants online, thereby improving convenience and speeding up proceedings of such suits, according to the Supreme Court sources. The plan will first be launched at the district courts in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, as well as the Intellectual Property High Court in Tokyo. Web meetings will be rolled out to district courts in five more cities — Yokohama, Kobe, Saitama, Chiba and Kyoto — in May 2020 and to other regional courts in stages at a later date. Currently, the sharing of information and other proceedings in cases involving plaintiffs and defendants living far away from each other are conducted over the phone if needed.
The new plan is expected to smooth out the procedures by allowing judges and counsel for both sides to share lawsuit materials online and hold talks face-to-face via video calls. Courts will also consider using the plan in cases other than long-distance litigation, including allowing lawyers to access the service from not only their offices but also the legal departments of client companies involved in lawsuits. The use of web meetings was proposed by a government panel of experts in March 2018 as a way to reduce lawyers’ burden of having to show up at court for lawsuit preparation.