Not wanting to be left behind by the USA, Jinja Honchō is currently in court to decide who the president is. The tags on this post should now link to all the immediately relevant posts, but I will start with a quick recap.
At the last Oversight Council meeting in May, the chairman was re-elected, and a new board of directors was chosen. The new board of directors had a lot of overlap with the old one, despite the problems over the last court case. At the board meeting to choose the new president, there was no formal decision, but the chairman named Revd Ashihara to the post. The secretariat has not accepted that this appointment is valid, and so Revd Ashihara has sued Jinja Honchō, asking the court to confirm that he is the president.
The problem is the relevant regulation. It says, in translation, “The president is named by the chairman from among the directors, after formal discussion by the board of directors”. The question at issue is whether the Japanese I have translated as “formal discussion” implies that the board of directors needs to pass a motion recommending a particular director as president.
The initial arguments in the court case were given on September 29th. Revd Ashihara said that he was president, because he was (and is) a director, the appointment of the president was discussed in the board meeting, and the chairman then named him as president. He says that this obviously meets the requirements of the regulation, and that he is therefore the president.
Jinja Honchō does not dispute any of those facts, but claims that the regulation should obviously be interpreted as requiring a motion to be passed by the board of directors.
The court will meet again on December 22nd to announce its decision.
This is a straightforward case, as the two sides agree on all the facts — everything is a matter of public record. The only issue is the legal question of the interpretation of the regulation, so the court does not need to hear any more arguments. The judges just need to go away and think about what the wording actually means.
The critical word in the Japanese is “議” (“gi”), which is, I think, ambiguous. There is an unambiguous way of indicating the need to pass a motion, which would be “決議” (“ketsugi”) or “議決” (“giketsu”). The regulations do not use those words. On the other hand, “議” is not just a discussion. It refers to the formal proceedings of a meeting, and so it is not unreasonable to interpret it as requiring a vote. That, of course, is why both sides have lawyers who said it was worth going to court. I assume that there is no clear precedent for the interpretation of this word. (If there were, the lawyers on the appropriate side would, if they were competent, have cited it in their arguments.) So, I have no idea what the court will decide, and even less idea of what the “right” decision would be. Jinja Honchō’s regulations were written 75 years ago, so no-one living knows what the original intention was.
The bright side here is that the decision will be handed down fairly quickly, and I do not think an appeal is viable in this case, no matter which way it goes. In addition, the autumn meeting of the Oversight Council happened last week, and that might have completely changed the landscape. Once more information has been published, I will write about it.