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Bar Journal - June 1, 2003

A Personal Perspective on The Work of the Rule of Law Partnership

By:
 

The New Hampshire judiciary first became involved with the Vologda courts in 1998, but it was not until May 2001 that I was able to travel to Vologda with a small group. There were four of us: two men, two women. Two of us were veterans of Vologda; two of us had never been there before. As traveling companions, we were a congenial group, which was especially good for me, since I went to Russia with a broken arm in a cast and had to rely upon the others to do many of the simplest things, not to mention carry my bags for me. They were very kind to me, as were all of the Russians. The trip was, of course, an adventure in and of itself, since it took us two days to get to Vologda, including one overnight train ride from Moscow. I had no idea what to expect, since I was quite sure that my childhood fears of communication no longer bore any relationship to reality. But I did not know what reality in Vologda would feel like.

It felt as though time had stood still. I had a strong sense that the clock had stopped in Vologda decades ago—at least the clock that rules my life. Yet, I welcomed that perception, because I saw a lovely old city, with beautiful churches and parks, that had not been spoiled by the rampant, strip-mall, commercial sprawl that has, in my eyes, spoiled the beauty of so much of the United States. At the same time, though, I also saw limits and deprivations, such as many, once beautiful, wooden houses either burned or utterly dilapidated, or government buildings in various states of disrepair. The judges, though serious and dignified, welcomed us warmly and, since two of us had been to Vologda on several prior occasions, it was plain that good friendships had developed. We were treated kindly and with care. And our days were filled with work and pleasure.

The work was harder than I expected. For example, I participated in a "train the trainers" seminar designed to teach Vologda judges how to develop curricula and education programs for their colleagues. It was fun to do and well-received, but it was difficult and tiring to spend a full day explaining fairly sophisticated adult education concepts through interpreters.

In contrast to the unexpected rigor of the work, the pleasure was much more fun than I expected. Each social event had been carefully thought out and planned. The food was abundant and delicious and the judges, bailiffs, interpreters and their friends and families were friendly, interesting, open, funny and very pleasant.

I was impressed by the bearing and attitude of the judges. They made no excuses for the sometimes-difficult conditions that they faced at work or at home. They simply made the best of every situation, without complaint. They seemed to have a thirst for the "rule of law" and were eager to take advantage of whatever ideas we had that they might find useful to them. They were proud of their progress and determined to make much more. Leaving Vologda, I felt that some very special people of the judiciary, whose optimism and fortitude will remain an inspiration to me, had touched my life.

Author

Hon. Linda S. Dalianis, NH Supreme Court Justice, Concord, NH.

 

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