Bar News - November 23, 2001
'Rule of Law' Projects Help Reform Russian Legal System
By: Elizabeth Hodges
THREE YEARS AGO this October, the first rule of law delegation from New Hampshire arrived in Vologda, Russia to explore the possibilities of a partnership project with the Russian judiciary and other justice system entities (New Hampshire Bar News, Jan. 6, 1999). Since that time, delegations from New Hampshire have made six visits to Vologda and Russian delegations from Vologda have made three visits to New Hampshire.
The projects undertaken through this effort have involved many components of the judicial system. Since the fall of Communism in Russia, the country’s judiciary has become independent from its executive branch and a new constitution, as well as new civil and criminal codes, have been enacted. The rule of law projects are aimed at providing legal support to Vologda based on their requests as a result of these changes.
While the rule of law component of the project is a primary focus, Americans involved agree that the professional relationships that have formed are equally rewarding and are possibly the basis for the project’s success. This was never clearer than on Sept. 11, 2001, when Hon. Kathleen McGuire, attorneys Elizabeth Hodges and Charles Szypszak and technology integrator Steve Burtt found themselves virtual refugees in Vologda following the terrorist attacks on the Untied States. The outpouring of concern, sorrow and support, not only for the delegation, but for Americans generally, was astounding.
Perhaps the most successful endeavor to date has been the collaboration on judicial and justice system education. Together, the partnership has conducted four judicial conferences. American topics have included appellate review, court administration, jury trials, contempt power of judges, criminal defendant rights, alternatives to incarceration, judicial ethics, court security and contract remedies. In addition, the partnership has conducted two Russian bailiff conferences. American topics have included execution of judgments – including judgments for child support – and court security. Also, in response to a request from the newly created court administration department in Vologda, an American delegation conducted a program for key judicial and justice system personnel in May 2001 on developing and implementing curriculum for the judges’ continuing professional education.
Education of both the Russians and the Americans on our different legal systems is a part of all the rule of law projects, but some have focused specifically on a particular aspect of the developments in the Russian legal system. One example is the real property projects spearheaded by attorney Szypszak. (See an article by Szypszak on the project in a future issue of Bar News). Other specific projects include a court technology and integration effort directed by Steve Burtt and a court decision collection and indexing endeavor led by attorney Mark Larsen.
Implementing the rule of law project requires a great deal of effort. The program needs committee members who are willing to give the time and effort necessary to ensure its continued success. Membership will involve traveling to Russia, perhaps once every year or two; attending approximately four committee meetings per year; working as part of a subcommittee responsible for one of the initiatives; and helping to host Russian delegations once or twice a year (Russian delegations stay at the Centennial Inn in Concord, not in homes).
If you are interested in participating in the project, please write a letter to Elizabeth Hodges, Deputy General Counsel, New Hampshire Supreme Court, One Noble Drive, Concord, NH 03301 or Hon. Kathleen A. McGuire, Merrimack County Superior Court, 163 North Main Street/P.O. Box 2880, Concord, NH 03302.