Eight prominent Russian judges will spend July 28–August 4 in Baltimore studying the U.S. justice system and meeting with their American counterparts and other civic leaders as part of the Library of Congress Open World Russian Leadership exchange. The judges are taking part in a pilot project on the rule of law designed to provide firsthand exposure to American judicial practices and to promote the development of working relationships between leading U.S. and Russian judges. The Library is conducting the project in cooperation with the Judicial Conference of the United States, the chief policymaking body of the federal courts.
The host judge for the distinguished Russian visitors to Baltimore is Judge Alan Wilner of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. Judge Wilner has participated in numerous legal exchanges and programs with members of the Russian legal establishment. The host organization is the Vermont Karelia Rule of Law Project, a nonprofit corporation that actively promotes rule-of-law partnerships between Russian regions and U.S. states and that implements comparative law studies conducted by Russian and U.S. lawyers, academics, and jurists. The Project works through partnerships between the legal communities of six U.S. states, including Maryland, and six Russian regions.
A primary goal of the Open World rule-of-law pilot project is to help further the progress of judicial reform in Russia, a crucial element in that country's transition to a democratic society. As former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation James Collins recently noted during one of his last press conferences as ambassador, "If in fact the priority for [President Vladimir] Putin and the administration is to modernize the economy . . . and participate fully in the system of industrial democracies, then [Russia's leaders will] have to ensure that rule of law is the principle of the future." The visit of the Russian judges to Baltimore comes as the Russian Parliament is considering Putin's sweeping judicial reform package, which includes provisions to introduce jury trials on a limited basis, revamp the criminal code, impose new restrictions on the powers of prosecutors, and improve judges' pay while removing their lifetime tenure and immunity from prosecution.
The Open World exchange, also known in its two pilot years as the Russian Leadership Program, brings young emerging Russian political and civic leaders to the United States for intensive short-term visits that expose them to the workings of America's democratic and free enterprise system through high-level, substantive meetings and on-site experiences. Some 3,650 participants from virtually all of Russia's 89 regions have been hosted in 48 states and the District of Columbia since the program's inception in June 1999. Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress and the chair of the Open World 1999 and 2000 pilots, provided the vision for the program in a 1999 speech to members of Congress. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored the legislation that created and extended the program; he also sponsored legislation that authorized the new, permanent Center for Russian Leadership at the Library of Congress to house the program and will serve as honorary chairman of the center's board of trustees.
The Open World judicial delegation visiting Baltimore includes Nadezhda Vasilyevna Brazhnikova, deputy chairperson, Eastern City Court of the City of Biysk; Vladimir Nikolayevich Grishin, deputy chairperson, Kineshemsk City Court; Yuriy Alekseyevich Kolokoltsev, judge, Novgorod Federal City Court; Anna Vasilyevna Peregudova, chairperson, Zheleznodorozhni District Court of the City of Barnaul; Valentin Gennadyevich Poluyanov, chairperson, Central District Court of the City of Barnaul; Marina Klimentyevna Ponomareva, chairperson, Chudovo District Federal Court of the Novgorod Region; Nadezhda Anatolyevna Sverchkova, chairperson, Ivanovsk District Court; and Mikhail Sergeyevich Yerik, judge, Staraya Russa City Court. They were selected for the program on the basis of their strong interest in judicial reform and their high level of professional accomplishment. Before arriving in Baltimore, the judges will have attended orientation sessions in Moscow and Washington, D.C., that provided an overview of the American political and judicial systems.
In Baltimore, the Russian delegation will hold working meetings on court administration, juvenile justice, and other topics with federal, state, and local judges and court personnel, including Chief Judge J. Frederick Motz of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland; Judge Edward DeWaters, administrative judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County; and Judge Dana Levitz of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The Baltimore County state's attorney is scheduled to brief them on the operations of the prosecutor's office and the jury commissioner is to go over how jurors are summoned, selected, and paid. The Russian judges will learn about courthouse security from the sheriff's department, and they will have the opportunity to see the U.S. justice system in action by observing a criminal jury trial. Visits to the public defender's office, a legal aid office, and the Baltimore County Detention Center are alsohttp://planned..On Friday, August 3, the Russian judges will visit appellate courts in Annapolis, where they will discuss court/media relations with members of the news media and a court information officer. While in Annapolis the judges are also scheduled to observe a district court session and tour the State House and other state legislative buildings.
The pilot project in which Baltimore is participating grew out of Open World 2000's successful and timely rule-of-law programming, in which 103 Russian judges and five members of the Russian Parliament took part. "During the 2000 Open World exchange we learned a great deal about how to design a program that will support judicial reform efforts in Russia," noted Dr. Billington. "Our new partnership with the Judicial Conference of the United States will further improve the quality of our rule-of-law program and provide opportunities for Russian and American members of the judiciary to build professional relationships," he continued.
Seven senior federal and state judges around the country will host a total of 36 leading Russian judges this summer and fall under the Open World Program. Peoria and Oklahoma City will be hosting Open World judicial delegations at the same time as Baltimore.
The American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is managing the logistical and administrative aspects of the rule-of-law pilot program on behalf of the Library.