2 Procedure in a family court

(1) Investigation in a family court

A family court is required to investigate any case referred by public prosecutors, etc. It can order a family court research law clerk to investigate it.

(2) Classification in a juvenile classification home

A family court may refer a juvenile to a juvenile classification home and request a classification of their predisposition by a ruling (protective detention) if it is needed for a hearing. In this case, the juvenile classification home accommodates the referred juvenile and classifies his/her predisposition based on the expertise it has in medicine, psychology, pedagogy, sociology, and other specialized fields in order to contribute to the hearing, etc. in a family court. As of April 1, 2012, there were 52 juvenile classification homes nationwide (including one branch home).

(3) Hearing, etc. in a family court

Based on the results of an investigation, a family court makes a ruling on whether it subjects the case to hearing.

A hearing in a family court typically involves a single judge. However, a collegiate court body of judges can conduct it if the decision is made to do so. The juvenile or the custodians can assign an attendant but they need a permission of the family court to appoint someone other than an attorney at law the attendant.

A hearing is closed to the public but a family court can allow victims, etc. of certain serious cases to attend the hearing upon request, although only when deemed appropriate and not likely to disrupt the healthy development of the juvenile concerned.

The family court may, by a ruling, have a public prosecutor participate in a hearing of a case involving a juvenile who has committed specified serious offenses, when the court finds it necessary to find the facts of the delinquency. In this case, if the juvenile has no attendant who is an attorney at law, the court shall appoint an attendant who is an attorney at law.

The family court may, by a ruling, place a juvenile under observation by a family court probation officer (tentative supervision) when it is deemed necessary to make a ruling to subject the juvenile under protective measures.

When it is found impossible or unnecessary to subject the juvenile under protective measures as a result of the hearing, the family court shall render a ruling not to subject the juvenile under protective measures. When it is found appropriate to take measures prescribed in the Child Welfare Act, the family court shall refer the case to a prefectural governor or a child consultation center’s director. The family court shall refer a case punishable by death penalty or imprisonment with or without work to a public prosecutor if the disposition to refer the case to criminal procedure is found appropriate. The family court shall give a ruling to refer a case to a public prosecutor where a juvenile who is 16 years of age or older committed an intentional criminal act that caused death to the victim. Except in the cases mentioned above, the family court shall, by a ruling, subject a juvenile under protective measures. Protective measures include placing the juvenile under probation by the probation office, commitment to a children’s self-reliance support facility or foster home (limited to juveniles younger than 18), and commitment to a juvenile training school (generally limited to juveniles aged 12 or older).

The juvenile or the legal representative or attendant of the juvenile may lodge an appeal against a ruling imposing protective measures only for a reason of a violation of laws and regulations that affects the ruling, a serious error of fact or substantial inappropriateness of the measures. A public prosecutor may file a request to a high court for acceptance of a case as the court of second instance only on the grounds of a violation of laws and regulations that affects the ruling or of a serious error of fact in connection with the fact-finding on the case for which the ruling to have a public prosecutor participate in a hearing has been made.