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Kiyo Yoshida

Kiyo Yoshida [profile]

From attorney to judge

Kiyo Yoshida
Judge, Fukuoka District Court

Counsel attorneys and judges see different dimensions

I was appointed as a judge in April 2011, shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake. My appointment required me to move to Fukuoka, an area where I had absolutely no territorial connection.

During the first year of my appointment, I was stationed at the Civil Division of the Fukuoka High Court, where I was responsible for appeals against the verdicts of district courts under our jurisdiction. During my second year, I was stationed at the Civil Division of the Fukuoka District Court, where I had sole responsibility for general civil cases such as loan restitution and damage claims. Additionally, I was also placed in charge of labor cases in which laborers filed suits against employers regarding unpaid overtime wages or invalid termination of employment.

Despite the similarity of being legal professionals involved in lawsuits, Counsel attorneys and judges see different dimensions. Judges are only involved with a small portion of a case as selected by counsel attorneys. In contrast, judges also have the opportunity to examine the core of a case from established facts, something unseen by counsel attorneys. Some judges compare this process to a mystery novel.

Furthermore, counsel attorneys conduct persistent persuasion of their clients and negotiate with the other party to reach a settlement in difficult cases. When witnessing such cases from the viewpoint of a judge, I reaffirmed the importance of a council attorney in settling disputes among conflicting parties.

Reasons behind choosing this profession

Fukuoka Tower and surrounding cityscape from the moat of Fukuoka District Court

Initially, I wanted to become an attorney because the work seemed extremely active. I wished to change my strong introverted tendencies and become more outgoing. However, to be honest, the main reason for my choice might have been that attorneys often leave the office on business trips. I enjoy traveling and wanted to take a job which allowed me to take business trips throughout Japan.

Saburo Abe was director of the office where I worked. Abe often worked with other attorneys who became independent of his office. As a result, I had the opportunity to see the various working styles of older attorneys both inside and outside of the office.

Furthermore, in addition to his work as an attorney, Abe also held a variety of executive positions such as university chairperson. As such, Abe encouraged staff members to be active outside the office. He was thrilled when I told him that I would enter a professional graduate school at Chuo University.

I had two main reasons for selecting my current profession as judge. First, a few years before my 10th year of employment as an attorney at the Abe Law Office, I thought about what kind of work I wanted to do from my 10th year. I realized that my appointment as a conciliation judge (part-time judge; a system for employment (normally 1 day per week) as a judge presiding over conciliation cases) from 2008 had been an interesting experience. Second, I have always been interested in a wide range of areas and I wanted to handle a broader variety of cases. Accordingly, I wanted to work in an environment where I could deal with cases without having my hands tied by economic rationality. These two vague ideas coincided and led to my decision.

Experiences that became useful in my current work

When I studied in the Faculty of Law, many of my classmates were intent on passing the bar examination. Thanks to them, I was able to pass the examination at around an average age, despite basing my studies mainly on material taught at university. I took advantage of seminars, university lectures and examination practice. (Tuition was expensive at cram schools for preparing for the bar examination, so I was limited to taking practice tests.) In particular, the voluntary seminars held together with classmates immediately before passing the bar examination were of great help. In addition to material which led directly to passing the examination, those voluntary seminars also provided emotional support.

Photo taken from the summit of Mt. Homan, near Dazaifu

Another one of my hobbies is operating computers, and I had a hard time deciding between the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Science and Engineering when entering university. I was drawn to Professor Tadahiko Fukuhara’s field in law and advanced technology. He was a professional of electronic transactions which was a cutting-edge field at that time. When I entered the professional graduate school in 2003, I studied under the instruction of Professor Fukuhara.

Ultimately, I believe that my research in the field of electronic transactions led to my assignment as a conciliation judge at the Civil Division No. 22 of the Tokyo District Court. Apparently, a decision was made to place me in charge of system development disputes requiring conciliation. Accordingly, I can say that Professor Fukuhara’s instruction led to an important experience on the path to my current profession of judge.

Additionally, at the professional graduate school, I had many opportunities to study with professionals of various ages working in a wide variety of industries. I would never have encountered such people if I had not entered the professional graduate school. In that environment, I was involved in a variety of research themes and developed the strong desire to constantly study new fields.

When passing verdicts as a judge, it is extremely important to hold discussions with other judges in order to form a comprehensive view of a case from a variety of perspectives. This is true for cases which involve consultation among three judges, as well as for cases handled alone. In retrospect, I realize the importance of training conducted at university and graduate school seminars for improving debating skills and problem-finding skills. I now wish I had put more effort into developing such skills.

Encounter with Professor Fukuhara and Saburo Abe

The author takes photographs underwater

Although Professor Fukuhara was busy with his duties at university, he always took time to help me with my theses. He would even help me outside of the university at a delicious restaurant which was located near the Law School and frequented by him.

Despite his busy schedule, Professor Fukuhara often went drinking with acquaintances. When joining him for drinks, I noticed what an extremely outgoing and well-connected man he was. At that time, I had a strong image of professors holing up in their office and writing theses. However, Professor Fukuhara was quite the opposite. I realized that he was able to engage in a wide variety of flexible and advanced research fields because he considered his research themes while being active in a variety of executive positions outside of the university.

Outside of my university education, I learned a lot while working under Saburo Abe at his law office. Abe retained a remarkably flexible way of thinking even after turning 70 years old. Abe continued his work as an attorney right up until the time of his death, visiting clients and writing legal briefs.

My encounter with these two great men teaches me that flexible thinking which is free of preconceptions can be developed by continuing to receive stimuli through interaction with various people.

Kiyo Yoshida
Graduated from Chuo University Suginami High School in 1993. Entered the Department of Law in the Chuo University Faculty of Law. Passed the bar examination in 1999 and began working as a lawyer from October 2001. While holding positions including an instructor at the Chuo University Law School and as a visiting expert researcher at the Financial Research Center of the Financial Services Agency, entered the Master's Program in the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University in April 2003. Completed the Doctoral Program in March 2007. In 2008, appointed as a conciliation judge (part-time judge) and served in the Civil Division No. 22 of the Tokyo District Court. Appointed to her current position of a full-time judge in April 2011. Her hobbies include reading (mainly manga), walking, playing the cello, Japanese sword-drawing and scuba diving.