Florida Visit Comes As Russia Implements Putin Administration Judicial Reforms; Kicks Off Joint St. Petersburg Celebrations
Washington, DC-A delegation of jurists from St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation will spend November 16-23, 2002, in St. Petersburg and Tampa, FL, examining the U.S. judicial system with their federal and state counterparts and meeting with members of the U.S. Congress and Florida political and education leaders. The Russian visitors are part of a high-level rule of law exchange sponsored by the Open World Program, the only exchange program housed in the U.S. legislative branch. The visit-hosted by Chief Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich and U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and St. Petersburg College President Carl Kuttler Jr.-will also help launch the joint anniversary celebrations that the Russian and U.S. cities of St. Petersburg will hold in 2003, when St. Petersburg, Russia, turns 300 years old and St. Petersburg, FL, celebrates its centennial.
Managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development, an independent agency based at the Library of Congress, Open World brings emerging Russian leaders to the United States for an in-depth, on-site introduction to American democratic institutions. The Russian delegation visiting Florida includes the head of the St. Petersburg Judicial Department (a branch of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation's Court Department); a law professor from St. Petersburg State University; a judge of the Leningrad Region Court; two judges on a federal commercial court; two municipal judges; and a justice of the peace from Gatchina, a town outside St. Petersburg.
While in St. Petersburg and Tampa, the Russian delegation is scheduled to: participate in an introductory roundtable with Chief Judge Kovachevich and Judge Jenkins; attend a Federal Bar Association dinner meeting honoring U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL), chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, which will also be attended by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (IL), chairman of the House Committee on International Relations; meet with former U.S. Rep. William Cramer (FL) and the Mayor of St. Petersburg; visit anti-terrorism and anti-drug training programs at St. Petersburg College, meet with President Kuttler, and take part in a tree-planting ceremony there; participate in a mock trial at the U.S. District Courthouse; and observe proceedings and meet with judges of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, the state Second District Court of Appeal, and the state Sixth and Thirteenth Judicial Circuits.
The Russian jurists are also scheduled to: receive briefings from the U.S. Attorney, the U.S. Public Defender, the Chief U.S. Probation Officer, and the Supervising Pretrial Services Officer; meet with faculty of Stetson College of Law and observe a class there; attend the annual judges' meeting at the federal courthouse in Florida; and tour the U.S. Marshals facility, the Pinellas County jail, and the Tampa Port Authority.
Members of the Rotary Clubs of St. Petersburg and Ybor City are helping arrange and conduct the Russian delegation's activities, which also include Rotary events. Rotary International has played a major role in hosting Open World participants since the program began in 1999. Former Rotary District 6890 Governor Betty Jo Tompkins is also assisting with the delegation's local program.
Before traveling to Florida, the Russian jurists participated in an intensive two-day orientation session in Washington, DC, with Judge Kovachevich, other U.S. judges, and officials from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Federal Judicial Center.
Open World's rule of law program enables Russian jurists to examine major aspects of the U.S. judicial system-including court proceedings, case management, law enforcement, legal education, judicial ethics, and the relationship between federal and state courts-with their American counterparts during study trips to one or more U.S. communities. The program is conducted in cooperation with the International Judicial Relations Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, the federal courts' policymaking body. One or more top U.S. federal or state judges plan and participate in the schedule of each Open World rule of law delegation.
Programming takes into account the changes in the Russian court system legislated by the recently enacted judicial reform measures put forward by President Vladimir Putin's administration. The extensive reforms include provisions to expand trial by jury nationwide and increase judges' authority by giving them exclusive power to approve warrants for searches and allow for pre-trial detention. The reforms also include new bankruptcy legislation signed into law on October 26, 2002, that brings Russian bankruptcy proceedings more in line with standard bankruptcy practices in market economies.
In addition to its rule of law program, Open World sponsors visits focusing on the environment, health, and other important themes. Some 2,500 emerging Russian political and civic leaders will participate in 2002. Since the program's inception, nearly 6,000 Open World visitors from all 89 Russian regions have been hosted in all 50 U.S. states, where they have experienced American community and cultural life, as well as seen American democracy in action.
The nonprofit American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is handling the logistics of the Russians' trip.