Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)

Abstract

“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”

United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr's famous quotation adequately explains the institutional purpose of citizen participation in important trials. Court decisions require both logical reasoning and a practical adherence to the reality of citizens’ experiences. Currently, the Taiwanese public believes that judicial decisions are often not in line with national perceptions of law. In addition, judges’ limited social experiences often cause the public to distrust their verdicts. The life experiences of citizens can properly fill in the gaps in judicial knowledge and supplement the viewpoints and contents of court decisions.

Adoption of a National Judge System, i.e. a lay judge system, in Taiwan, can enhance a party’s procedural justice in public interest civil cases such as those concerning food safety, environmental hazards, and public nuisance. Under such a system, the parties would have the right to select their adjudicators, and citizens could participate in the processes of trial and deliberation, and render a verdict accordingly. Such citizen participation would increase the dialogue between the judicial system and citizens, thereby enhancing public trust of the justice system.

In 2017, the Taiwanese government pushed for judicial reform, attempting to enhance public trust. The first draft of the National Judge proposal (A) includes laypeople from diverse and representative social groups; (B) grants all parties the right of peremptory challenges, so they can select their adjudicators without being compelled to provide any reason; and (C) allows these laypeople to render verdicts through discussion and deliberation with the judge, so as to return judicial power to the people. In these respects, the national judges serve the role of traditional jurors, checking on governmental power, enhancing civic consciousness, and strengthening public trust in the judicial system.

Most studies of citizen participation focus on criminal courts, but in this thesis, I advocate for national judges to participate in civil cases of public interest. In recent years, Taiwan has been undergoing several crises regarding food safety, including incidents involving gutter oil in 2014 and plasticizer use in food products in 2011. This article focuses on the plasticizer incident, using it as a model example of a toxic tort issue, for which lay judges could determine important aspects of public policy. In doing so, this study engages with American scholarships on the civil jury and focuses on expert testimony, which is often a key element in public policy civil cases.

Available for download on Sunday, May 07, 2023

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