Tuesday, November 21, 2000

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172, pharr@arches.uga.edu

CONTACT: Maria Eugenia Gimenez, (706) 542-5138, mgimenez@arches.uga.edu


ATHENS, Ga. - A growing number of countries are contacting the University of Georgia School of Law about its innovative international judicial training program, and from November 27 - December 8, the state of Pernambuco, Brazil will send its third group of judges to Athens to participate. The training is a joint venture between the Dean Rusk Center - International, Comparative and Graduate Legal Studies, the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education (ICJE), and UGA's Office of International Development.

"For any country that is undergoing change - economic change, governmental change - one of the most important elements of reform is a strong judiciary," said Maria Eugenia Gimenez, associate program director for the Dean Rusk Center and co-director of the international judicial training program. "Whatever conflicts there are in any sector will eventually go to the courts. Thus, an efficient, reliable court system in which the public has confidence is the key element of structural reform in any country in the world."

When this session is completed, Pernambuco's previous, current and future chief justice will all have gone through the training program, which began in 1998. Nine judges are registered for the upcoming session, as well as a judge and a court administrator from Ghana. Talks are ongoing with officials in Panama, Venezuela, Mongolia, Guatemala and Kenya for possible participation. Argentina is interested in judicial and prosecutorial training, which might be arranged in the future. Many prospective countries need financial assistance to participate, so Gimenez is lobbying for support from institutions like the World Bank, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Inter-American Development Bank.

"We are trying to work in those countries where the university already has certain ongoing programs," said Gimenez. "We want to take full advantage where the university has excellent contacts."

Short training sessions have been offered to visiting judges from the Czech Republic, but ICJE Executive Director Rich Reaves, who co-directs the international judicial training program, says the opportunity for concentrated work over a two-week period is one of the program's prime benefits to foreign judges.



"I have worked with a number of visiting tour-like programs, and in an afternoon, I am not capable of learning enough about their legal culture to know if the vocabulary that I choose and the concepts that I presume I can communicate are communicated in synchronicity," said Reaves. "A jury trial in the United States does not mean the same thing as a jury trial in Brazil. When you spend a couple of weeks with people, you develop a clearer understanding."

ICJE has been honored twice with the American Bar Association's Judicial Education Award, and Reaves applies that state court training expertise to the programs he tailors for the foreign participants. Many countries do not have a two-tiered state/federal court system like ours; most have only a state-based system, so ICJE's state training focus is particularly relevant. Judges and court administrators attend lectures and discussions on judicial independence, court leadership, legal ethics and professionalism, and efficient administration. They tour and meet with local judges and court administrators, observe a jury trial in Athens-Clarke County, and observe specialized trial courts (family, drug, etc.) in Atlanta as well as the Georgia Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court.

"There are two thrusts to the training," Reaves explained. "The first thrust is judicial independence. We have participants who come from places where the judiciary has been in dysfunction, so they want to know what can be done institutionally to establish respect for the judicial branch of government and maintain that respect so that it can begin to emerge as co-equal with their other branches of government. The second thrust is judicial administration. In Brazil, the caseload is horrendous per judge, and so when those judges come, they look very seriously at how they might better manage their caseload, publish their opinions and hold lawyers' feet to the fire who are bringing repetitive issues to the court's attention, so that they can winnow down their workload by establishing a greater acceptance of precedence in the practice of law."

In large part, the judges seek practical knowledge, Reaves said. "How can they run their offices more efficiently? They want those answers more so than some principle of law like judicial review. And our course gives people a chance to rub shoulders with judges, court administrators or judicial secretaries on these sorts of issues, which I think is a real strength of our course."

Gimenez cites the volunteer involvement of many Georgia judges and court administrators as evidence of the program's links with the state. "The judicial program can help to promote the development of other university programs through the contacts we make at the highest level in the countries with which we work," she said. "If this program really grows, it will be one of the most interesting things we have at the university."


To cover any aspect of the judges' training session November 27 - December 8, 2000, please contact Maria Gimenez @ (706) 542-5138 or via e-mail (mgimenez@arches.uga.edu).