Japan's attorneys state their case in Futenma noise lawsuit
September 9, 2006
OKINAWA CITY — Some 400 Ginowan residents suing the Japanese government over noise from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma don’t deserve compensation, Japanese government lawyers argued Thursday, because they should have known of the problem before moving to the area.
The residents also haven’t proved that air station noise has damaged their health, Japanese government lawyers stated in a rare verbal presentation in Naha District Court’s Okinawa City branch.
It marked the first time in this 3½-year court case that government lawyers have stated their arguments publicly. They did so Thursday only after the judge denied their request to again make their case solely through written documents given the court.
Tsutomu Arakaki, the residents’ lead lawyer, requested the verbal presentation at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing, stating: “Merely shuffling documents gives no clue to the audience what the defense arguments are.”
Responded a government lawyer: “We believe that there is no special need for us to do so.”
Traditionally, civil lawsuits in Japan are conducted by exchanging written arguments and evidence.
But the lawyer quietly read aloud from his documents after Koji Hiratsuka, chief of the three-judge panel hearing the case, asked the government to verbalize at least some of its arguments.
“Some of the residents moved into the area affected by the aircraft noise while knowing that the noise pollution exists,” the government lawyer read. He also read a list of written evidence given to the court, including that no proof exists that the aircraft noise caused any health problems.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Akifumi Matsuzaki countered that some of the residents had to move to the area for compelling reasons, such as to care for aging parents.
In November 2003, residents surrounding Futenma sued the Japanese goverment, seeking $2.56 million in compensation.
The U.S. and Japanese governments already have agreed to move Marine air operations to Camp Schwab in rural northeast Okinawa. But plans to close MCAS Futenma have been stalled for more than a decade.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 16.