Free law clinics to advise on Japanese legal issues
April 19, 2008
OKINAWA CITY, Okinawa — A group of law professors and students from the University of the Ryukyus is offering a series of free legal clinics starting Saturday at the Fuji Law Office.
It’s an excellent opportunity for Americans to get information on legal issues they might encounter outside the U.S. military community — such as buying property, signing contracts with Japanese firms, and dealing with adoption and Amerasian issues — said Vera Fry, an associate professor at the university’s graduate School of Law.
“The legal centers on the bases are excellent for taking care of most legal issues servicemembers and their family members are faced with, but the lawyers there don’t have much experience with Japanese law,” said Fry, who has a license to practice law in California and is applying for certification to practice in Japan.
“The law clinic will help fill that information gap,” she said. “We can help people who have problems with getting child support from fathers who transferred back to the States, or consumer law issues or immigration matters.”
Fry’s passion these days is Amerasian issues. There are many children of mixed marriages who are left in a legal and cultural limbo when their parents split up and they are left to live alone with their Okinawan mothers, she said.
“In the U.S., the women can go to state agencies and get child support,” she said. “But they don’t have immediate access from here, and there’s often a language barrier as well. And the laws are different in Japan. In the U.S., it is an administrative matter. In Japan, it is a judicial issue.”
She said she is currently aiding 10 Amerasian families.
Tetsumi Takara, dean of Graduate School of Law at the University of the Ryukyus, said Fry inspired him to open the bilingual law clinic.
“Her sincere concerns over issues that affect both Japanese and Americans living on Okinawa — child support for Amerasian children, for instance — made me rediscover how high the demand is for such a service,” Takara said.
Many legal problems Americans and Japanese face in dealing with each other stem from a lack of knowledge of each other’s legal systems, he said.
“We hope the law clinic will serve as a place to fill such a gap,” he said. “We would like to encourage people to drop in to our clinic because nothing is worse than keeping a problem to yourself.”