It’s long been known that Japanese file fewer lawsuits per capita than Americans do. Yet explanations for the difference have tended to be partial and unconvincing, ranging from circular arguments about Japanese culture to suggestions that the slow-moving Japanese court system acts as a deterrent.
With Second-Best Justice, J. Mark Ramseyer offers a more compelling, better-grounded explanation: the low rate of lawsuits in Japan results not from distrust of a dysfunctional system but from trust in a system that works—that sorts and resolves disputes in such an overwhelmingly predictable pattern that opposing parties rarely find it worthwhile to push their dispute to trial. Using evidence from tort claims across many domains, Ramseyer reveals a court system designed not to find perfect justice, but to “make do”—to adopt strategies that are mostly right and that thereby resolve disputes quickly and economically.
An eye-opening study of comparative law, Second-Best Justice will force a wholesale rethinking of the differences among alternative legal systems and their broader consequences for social welfare.
University of Chicago Press; November 2015
- ISBN 9780226282046
- Read online, or download in secure PDF format
- Title: Second-Best Justice
- Author: J. Mark Ramseyer
Imprint: University of Chicago Press
In The Press
“Ramseyer—often unorthodox, rebellious, paradigm-subverting—has occasionally found himself cast as the enfant terrible of Japanese law, economics, and politics. With this marvelous book, Second-Best Justice, he again takes aim at conventional wisdom with a brilliant, measured, and highly contextualized takedown of the common belief that low litigation rates in Japan indicate that the Japanese legal system is fundamentally flawed. Ramseyer offers an alternative, ingeniously nuanced explanation for why Japanese don’t sue: The system aims for good, not perfection. Ramseyer’s argument is so compelling that it’s difficult to imagine his ideas won’t form the next conventional wisdom. With a cavalcade of evidence that powerfully challenges dominant counterarguments, Second-Best Justice is essential reading that is sure to spark controversy, as well as change minds.”
— Mark D. West, University of Michigan Law School
“This well-written book offers a wealth of fascinating information about Japan’s health care and legal systems. Ramseyer provides very concise and fascinating accounts of the labor practice and policy, landlord tenant law, consumer finance law, and more, which are set in historical context and both amusing and informative.”
— Lewis A. Kornhauser, New York University School of Law
“In predictably insightful and lucid fashion, Ramseyer shows how the Japanese legal system ‘makes do’ with relatively simple, predictable rules to resolve a variety of common disputes. The result, it turns out, is a legal system that functions just fine—perhaps much better than one aspiring to perfect, individualized justice. Second-Best Justice is an astute commentary on the Japanese legal system, and by implication, the US system to which it is often compared.”
— Curtis J. Milhaupt, Columbia Law School
“Replete with facts, figures, and statistical analyses, Second-Best Justice is a richly detailed examination of Japan’s ‘second-best’ system for handling personal injury cases—a system that, Ramseyer argues, puts the United States to shame.”
— Daniel H. Foote, University of Washington and University of Tokyo
"Ramseyer argues that the relatively low rate of lawsuits in Japan results not from distrust of a dysfunctional system but from trust in a system that works—that sorts and resolves disputes in such an overwhelmingly predictable pattern that opposing parties rarely find it worthwhile to push their dispute to trial. Using evidence from tort claims across many domains, he describes a court system designed not to find perfect justice, but to “make do”—to adopt strategies that are mostly right and that thereby resolve disputes quickly and economically."
— Law & Social Inquiry
"Readers of this publication can expect to learn new ideas on Japanese Law, written by a prominent professor. Using reliable and detailed statistical analysis, Ramseyer astutely presents counter arguments to dispel popular arguments about Japanese tort law. Despite difficulties with using the justice statistics (Shiho Tokei) published by the Supreme Court and a database of cases, the author splendidly overcomes these challenges."
— Social Science Japan Journal
"J. Mark Ramseyer’s latest book-length contribution to the scholarship on Japanese law is—as expected—articulate and insightful. It revisits the subject of why Japan has less civil litigation than the United States, and while some in the field of Japanese law might question the need to further pursue the seemingly interminable debate on this subject, Ramseyer presents some interesting new perspectives that are certainly worthy of consideration."
— Monumenta Nipponica
About The Author
J. Mark Ramseyer is the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard University Law School.