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  • The tug of war continues: Fukuoka High Court overrules Oita District Court that doubted, then affirmed, Oita Prefectural Govt’s denial of welfare benefits to superannuated NJ Permanent Resident

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 18th, 2011

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    Hi Blog. Last November I mentioned in my Debito.org Newsletter about this weird case of administrative exclusionism and atypical jurisprudence in Japan, thus:

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    16) Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits

    Kyodo: A Japanese court repealed on Thursday a decision by Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan not to examine a request from a 78-year-old Chinese woman to look into a decision by Oita City that rejected her application for welfare benefits.

    A three-judge panel at the Oita District Court acted on a suit filed by the woman, who has obtained permanent residency status in Japan, against the Oita prefectural government decision that turned away the woman’s request, filed in February last year, to examine the Oita municipal government decision not to provide welfare benefits to her.

    The prefectural government dismissed the woman’s request without examining it, saying she was not eligible to seek benefits because she does not have Japanese nationality.

    In Thursday’s ruling, the district court said the prefectural government must review the municipal government decision in line with the woman’s request, and decide whether she should be given benefits.

    Presiding Judge Kenji Kanamitsu brushed aside the prefectural government’s argument that the city’s decision not to provide her with benefits was a ”unilateral administrative action” against a foreigner who has no right to seek welfare benefits, and not an ”administrative decision” as she claimed, whose appropriateness can be reviewed under the administrative appeal law.

    Judge Kanamitsu said the woman is ”obviously” eligible to ask the prefectural government to review the municipal government decision.

    ”An application for welfare benefits has been rejected, and it means the same to the applicants, regardless of their nationalities,” the judge said…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=7563

    BUT

    17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.

    After a half-month interlude of light and reason (as in September 30 to October 18), where it actually looked like a Japanese courtroom was actually going to be nice to somebody and rule against The State, another court has come along and put things back to normal:

    Mainichi: The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government…

    According to the ruling, the woman has Chinese nationality but was born in Japan and holds the right to permanent residence. In December 2008, the woman applied to the welfare office in Oita city for welfare payments, but was turned down with the reason that she had “a comfortable amount of money” in her savings.

    The main issues of the trial became whether the woman held the right as a foreigner to receive welfare payments and whether her financial status justified her receiving aid…”

    COMMENT: Gee, that was quick by Japanese judicial standards! I guess they know the value of putting the kibosh on something before the floodgates open: Can’t have all the goddamn foreigners expecting to have rights to something like our social welfare benefits, especially at an advanced age.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=7639

    /////////////////////////////////////////////

    Then, as the clock continues to run out for this superannuated NJ, we now have another flip, fortunately in the more inclusive direction:

    /////////////////////////////////////////////

    Court rules noncitizens are eligible for welfare
    The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 17, 2011), courtesy of lots of people
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111116006297.htm

    FUKUOKA–The Fukuoka High Court ruled Tuesday that permanent residents in in Japan with foreign nationalities are eligible to receive public welfare assistance, overturning a lower court ruling.

    The high court accepted an appeal by a 79-year-old woman who is a permanent resident in Japan with Chinese nationality. She filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Oita city government illegally rejected her request for public welfare assistance.

    Presiding Judge Hiroshi Koga said in the ruling, “Foreign citizens with permanent residency [in Japan] are legally guaranteed the same status as Japanese citizens who receive the same treatment.”

    The high court overturned the Oita District Court’s ruling and nullified the Oita city government’s decision not to grant the woman public welfare benefits.

    According to a lawyer for the plaintiff, it is the nation’s first court ruling to present a legal basis for foreign permanent residents in Japan to receive public welfare benefits.

    According to the ruling, the woman applied for the public welfare at the Oita city government in December 2008, but the city government rejected her request.

    The point at issue in the lawsuit was whether the Daily Life Protection Law can be applied to noncitizens.

    Article 1 of the law limits recipients to Japanese citizens. As for non-Japanese residents, each local government has made respective judgments based on a 1954 notice issued by the then Health and Welfare Ministry, which said the law would be applied with some modification.

    Though there are many foreign permanent residents in Japan who receive public welfare benefits, their eligibility has not been legally guaranteed.

    The high court ruling noted Diet deliberations in 1981 on ratifying the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that countries “shall accord to refugees within their territories treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”

    At the time, the Diet presented a view that Japan would not need to revise the Daily Life Protection Law to eliminate nationality clauses in it because the government has already been applying the law with necessary modifications.

    The high court judged that the Japanese government had at that moment become obliged under international law to provide public welfare assistance to foreign residents in the country.

    The high court also pointed out that the central government in 1990 limited the range of noncitizen recipients to those with permanent resident status in terms of management of the public welfare system.

    ENDS

    ======================================

    永住外国人に生活保護受給権認める、大分市逆転敗訴

    (2011年11月16日 読売新聞)

    http://kyushu.yomiuri.co.jp/news/national/20111116-OYS1T00215.htm

    大分市が生活保護申請を却下したのは違法として、永住資格を持つ中国籍の女性(79)が市を相手取り、却下取り消しなどを求めた訴訟の控訴審判決が15日、福岡高裁であった。古賀寛裁判長は「永住資格を持つ外国人は日本人と同様の待遇を受ける地位が法的に保護されている」として、原告敗訴の1審・大分地裁判決を覆し、市の却下処分を取り消した。原告弁護団によると、永住外国人に生活保護を受ける法的根拠を示した判決は全国で初めて。

    判決によると女性の両親は中国人で、1932年に京都市で生まれた。夫の親族から預金通帳などを取り上げられて生活資金に困り、2008年12月、大分市に生活保護を申請。市は「銀行に預金が相当額ある」として却下した。

    訴訟の争点は生活保護法が外国人に適用されるかどうかだった。同法1条では対象を国民に限定し、外国人については旧厚生省が54年に出した「法を準用する」との通知に基づき、各自治体が適否を判断してきた。自治体の裁量に任されており、外国人の権利は法的に保障されていない。

    今回の高裁判決は、政府が81年、「難民などに対し自国民と同一待遇を与える」とする国連難民条約への批准に伴う国会審議で、法が準用されているため国籍条項撤廃などの改正は必要ないとの見解を示した点を重視。この時点で、国は外国人への生活保護について国際法上などでの法的義務を負ったと認定した。

    ENDS

    ======================================

    大分・生活保護訴訟:永住外国人も対象 福岡高裁、法的根拠認める判決
    毎日新聞 2011年11月16日 東京朝刊
    http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20111116ddm041040099000c.html

    永住資格を持つ大分市の中国籍の女性(79)が、外国籍であることなどを理由に生活保護申請を却下した大分市の処分取り消しを求めた訴訟の控訴審判決が15日、福岡高裁であった。古賀寛裁判長は「一定範囲の外国人も生活保護法の準用による法的保護の対象になる」と述べ、1審判決を取り消し、市の却下処分を取り消した。原告側弁護団によると永住外国人について生活保護を受ける法的根拠を示した判決は初めて。弁護団は「外国人の保護申請や不服申し立てに影響する画期的判決」と評価している。

    判決によると、女性は日本で生まれ育ち母語も日本語。夫とともに不動産業で生活していたが夫は病気になり、親族から預金通帳を取り上げられ、生活に困窮。08年12月、市に生活保護を申請したが「女性名義の預金が相当額ある」として却下されたため提訴した。

    生活保護法は受給者を日本国民に限定しているが、旧厚生省は1954年、外国人に生活保護法を準用するよう都道府県に通知。更に81年の国連難民条約批准を受け、90年には対象を永住外国人に限定するよう通知し「贈与的性格の行政措置」として永住外国人には事実上、生活保護費を支給した。

    1審・大分地裁は昨年10月、生活保護法が国民に限定していることなどから女性の請求を却下した。

    控訴審判決で古賀裁判長は、政府が通知などで永住外国人に生活保護費を支給し続けてきた経緯に言及。「国が一定範囲の外国人に対し日本国民に準じた生活保護法上の待遇を与えることを認めた」と指摘し、原告女性を保護対象と判断した。【岸達也】

    ENDS
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    COMMENT: Okay, that’s good news and a good precedent. Glad they took it away from the denizens of Oita, who clearly started saying “Chotto…” to the petty bureaucrats, then backtracked within two weeks as the wagons encircled to rule against the alleged foreigner (I would like to hear more about her, i.e., if she is in fact a Zainichi or not — there is a difference between ippan eijuusha and tokubetsu eijuusha, after all, and that will be noted by any legal exceptionalists who want to stop further positive precedent building). But the fact that she’s born here, raised here, speaks Japanese as her native language, and is approaching eighty years of age, yet STILL was denied benefits by heartless bureaucrats, backed up by the judiciary, is more than a bit scary. If this gets appealed to the Supreme Court (after all, the GOJ is a sore loser in court), I hope the judges are in a good mood when they start deliberating. Maybe we should send them sweets. Arudou Debito

    10 Responses to “The tug of war continues: Fukuoka High Court overrules Oita District Court that doubted, then affirmed, Oita Prefectural Govt’s denial of welfare benefits to superannuated NJ Permanent Resident”

    1. Terry Kimura Says:

      At first I thought to myself, “Well just fix the law!” Then I realized what I had just thought and laughed at myself, berating myself for being a silly little boy.

    2. MMT Says:

      Hopefully in the mean time while the government appeals this decision, the woman’s case will be properly assessed as to whether or not she’s eligible for benefits. I’d find it utterly cruel for her situation to remain in limbo while waiting for the Supreme Court to get around to deliberating the case.

    3. CJ Says:

      Interesting. Perhaps the plaintiff will conveniently die before the Supreme Court gets around to it, leaving the issue comfortably gray.

      I guess the related question is whether the plaintiff is eligible to naturalize despite her lack of resources. Is there any sort of “net worth/income” requirement for naturalizing? Because that would be a classically Japanese paradox. “You can’t get public assistance because you are not Japanese. You cannot become Japanese because you need public assistance.”

    4. Lepanto Says:

      I wonder if you, Debito, as a nationalized Japanese, would receive welfare benefits. Maybe the government might deny you assistance because you are not real Japanese? Would like to know what they would say in such situation. Cheers.

      – I was on unemployment benefit for a few months between jobs in 1993. I was not in any way denied those benefits, anyway, and I was not a citizen yet.

    5. Ah Says:

      How easy or hard is it to sue a Japanese government entity? I’m thinking of filing a few lawsuits myself. If any of you have had any experience, please let me know.

      – We sued the Otaru City Government during the Otaru Onsens Case. Lost in all three courts. The government rarely loses in Japanese court. Judges will soon cite powers of “discretion” and all that, I believe, because they don’t want to hurt their chances at plum posts and advancement to higher courts in future.

    6. Anonymous Says:

      Hopefully everyone understands what Debito meant when he mentioned “Unemployment Benefits”.
      The Oita PR was denied “Welfare Benefits” for being NJ. Welfare is different from Unemployment.

      No eligible NJs are denied unemployment benefits if they indeed have Kouyo Hoken for 6 months.
      (just show 雇用保険被保険者証明 & 離職証明書 : [雇用保険被保険者資格喪失届 & 雇用保険被保険者離職票 optional])

      This Oita case is special, because the Oita Prefectural Government said, “No Welfare for NJs.”
      They could have shrewdly claimed the applicant didn’t qualify, but they stated “No NJs.” Oops.

      Now, Nov. 15, the Fukuoka High Court admitted that 1990 Law states, “PRs ARE eligible for Welfare.”
      This means the Oita Municipal Welfare Office will have to find a DIFFERENT reason to refuse PRs.

      From now on ALL Municipal Welfare Offices will need to find Lawful reasons to refuse PRs Welfare.
      Or, they will simply have to do the unimaginable: gasp, give eligible PRs Welfare as required by Law.

      – Yes, quite. Thanks for making that clear. I suspect I don’t yet qualify agewise or incomewise for the other benefits that the PR person in question is trying to get.

    7. jim Says:

      this makes me sick because im sure that this poor lady has paid her share of taxes over the years just like myself and alot of other NJ so why arent we entitled to any kind of social services for all the years that we have paid taxes to all these social programs. how about if i just decide to stop paying taxes if im not entitles to receive any welfare

    8. 無名 Says:

      If this case is appealed to the highest court in the land, then how long can we expect to wait on average for a final verdict once they accept the case? Are the lawyers for this lady’s case doing this pro bono?

      – Supreme Court decisions can take anything from about half a year to decades to be handed down.

    9. chad Says:

      “Superannuated”. What the hell does that mean? Now I know why you kick butt in Scrabble :)

    10. Mumei Says:

      It looks like this case isn’t over yet.
      The below article indicates that arguments will be heard on June 27th and suggests that the ruling may be revised.
      This woman is now in her 80s. I hope that she gets a final and fair ruling during her lifetime.

      永住外国人の生活保護、受給権認めた二審見直しか 最高裁
      2014/4/25 19:44
      http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXNASDG2502U_V20C14A4CR8000/

      大分市に生活保護の申請を却下された永住資格を持つ中国籍の女性が、同市を相手取って却下処分の取り消しなどを求めた訴訟で、最高裁第2小法廷(千葉勝美裁判長)は25日までに、当事者双方の意見を聞く弁論を6月27日に開くことを決めた。永住外国人は生活保護の対象になると認めた二審の判断が見直される可能性がある。

      一、二審判決によると、女性は親族に預金通帳などを取り上げられ生活に困窮。2008年に大分市に生活保護を申請したが、預金があることを理由に却下された。

      10年10月の一審・大分地裁判決は外国籍を理由に原告の訴えを退けたが、11年11月の二審・福岡高裁判決は「永住外国人は生活保護法を準用した法的保護の対象となる」と判断。市の却下処分を取り消し、原告側の逆転勝訴とした。

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