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Bar News - September 20, 2002

Russian Judges Study Justice System in NH
Russian Judges Study Justice System in NH

Eight leading Russian judges from the Vologda region spent a week in New Hampshire, studying the U.S. federal and state court systems with their New Hampshire counterparts. The Russian jurists were part of a rule of law exchange funded by the Open World Program, based at the Library of Congress. The visit comes following Russia's recent adoption of major judicial reforms proposed by President Vladimir Putin.

The visit is being coordinated in New Hampshire by the New Hampshire/Vologda Rule of Law Partnership Committee, a committee of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, that has been conducting exchanges with the legal community in Vologda since 1998. Vologda, a province of similar population size to New Hampshire, is located about eight hours by train from Moscow, in north central Russia.

Superior Court Associate Justice Kathleen A. McGuire, chair of the Rule of Law Committee, and New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Linda S. Dalianis, the Supreme Court's liaison to the committee, are hosts for the visit which will include visits to the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord, a "Teen Court" program in Merrimack County, oral arguments before the Supreme Court, various Superior Court proceedings, and the Bankruptcy Court in Manchester. The delegates also were guests of honor at a luncheon sponsored by the NH World Affairs Council. For recreation, the group toured the Shaker Village and attended a social event at the summer home of Dover District Court Judge Robert Cullinane in Wells Beach, Maine.

Prior to coming to NH, the Russian jurists spent two days in an orientation program in Washington, DC, where Superior Court Associate Justice Gary Hicks participated as one of the presenters.

All of the programming took into account the changes in the Russian court system legislated by the judicial reform package enacted last December. One of the main components of the Putin package was the expansion of jury trials nationwide.

The extensive reforms also include provisions intended to enhance the status, accountability, and independence of the Russian judiciary by improving judges' pay, ending their lifetime tenure and immunity from prosecution, and overhauling the judicial appointment and promotion process.

As many as 300 Russian jurists will participate in Open World this year. In addition to its rule of law exchanges, Open World sponsors visits focusing on the environment, health, and other important themes. Up to 2,500 Russians are expected to participate in Open World this year alone, and nearly 5,000 Open World visitors from all of Russia's 89 regions have been hosted by 49 states since the program be gan in 1999. Program alumni represent a wide array of political parties and ethnic groups, and more than a third are women.

Two of the Russian judges sit on the Vologda Regional Court, two sit on the Vologda Commercial Court (one as deputy chair), one chairs a district court, one sits on the Vologda City Court, and two sit on the Cherepovets City Court. Six of the eight judges visiting New Hampshire are women.

The judges also traveled to Hopkinton to observe Election Day activities at the town hall, and spent time touring the NH State House.

This visit is the latest in a series of exchanges since 1998 that have brought five delegations from Vologda to New Hampshire and 10 trips by New Hampshire judges and lawyers to Vologda. The travel expenses of the NH/Vologda Rule of Law Partnership programs have been funded by grants from a variety of federal foreign aid and cultural exchange programs, coordinated by the Russian American rule of Law Consortium, which paired New Hampshire and Vologda.


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