PROceedings Paper Abstract

Jonathan Marshall. "Credible Commitments: Taxpayer Suits and Freedom of Information in Japan." Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001.

Paper (requires Acrobat Reader)

Keywords: japan, taxpayer standing, oversight, courts, freedom of information


During the 1990s Japan experienced a three-fold increase in the number of taxpayer suits brought against local governments. These lawsuits allow residents of prefectures and municipalities to file suit against the local government or its employees for fiscal malfeasance. The taxpayer suit itself was one of the “direct democracy” reforms introduced by the Occupation and modeled after U.S. state and local government practices. Taxpayer suits were relatively uncommon until the mid-1970s, but they suddenly gained popularity after the mid-1990s. Information disclosure ordinances, which had been on the books since the mid-1980s but which only came into broad use after a body of pro-plaintiff precedent had accumulated in information disclosure lawsuits, help explain the taxpayer suit boom of the late 1990s. Information disclosure provided a way to gather the evidence necessary to prosecute taxpayer suits, whose main stumbling block had been the burden of proof borne by the plaintiff. Information disclosure also added to the social base for the government watchdogs that pursued taxpayer suits. Taxpayer suits and information disclosure thus produced a synergy, both institutionally and organizationally.

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