Japan’s high court rejects suit over noise at Futenma
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japan Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought against the former commander of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, ending a case begun almost 3½ years ago.
The appeal was filed in October by three of the 404 residents of Ginowan who sued Marine Col. Richard Leuking, now retired, and the Japanese government in October 2002. Claiming excess military aircraft noise harmed their physical and mental health, they sought $5.51 million — $142,700 of that directly from Leuking.
A lower court dismissed the case against Leuking in September 2004. In a decision the Fukuoka High Court upheld Sept. 22, it ruled he acted in his official capacity as base commander and that the national government is responsible for damages a civil servant causes doing official business. The lawsuit against the Japanese government is pending in Naha District Court.
Judge Kunio Hamada, Supreme Court’s Third Petty Bench, rejected the appeal without explanation — which Yutaka Kato, a lawyer for the residents, Wednesday called “unjust.”
“The core of the lawsuit is how to assign responsibility to the person who is primarily responsible for the noise,” Kato said. “Instead, the court closed its doors to the residents who seek judicial remedy.” He said they really sought not compensation but “to restore their everyday lives free from unbearable aircraft noise.”
MCAS Futenma is to be closed once a new Marine air base is built elsewhere on Okinawa.