As the summer continues, the first cup of coffee has now turned into cold brew. South Florida’s temperature keeps rising and it is nice to escape to Prague — even just virtually.
As the days pass, it has become exciting to see fruits of my labor begin to appear. Whether it is being able to help develop a curriculum guideline for a judicial course on remote judging or seeing my international fair trial understanding continue to grow, each experience spurs me to wanting to consume more and more.
CEELI has recently wrapped up their COVID-19 based Webinar Series on 'Videoconferencing in Support of Remote Access to Courts,' a project that I was able to spend many hours on. During lockdown, CEELI has produced two series on remote judging. The initial series highlighted how courts were responding to pandemic related challenges, the integration of videoconferencing, and how fair trial standards were being met during this time. The second series shifted in topic and focused on ‘Access to Justice During and After the Pandemic’. In these sessions, judges, court officials, and members of international NGOs discussed what court systems will look like or already look like in a post-lockdown world. It’s been incredible to sit and listen to these presentations and discussions, to hear individuals who are at the top of their fields debate solutions, find new ideas, and share their experiences with one another has been truly eye-opening. At times, I have feared that the legal profession can be an isolating place, but having the opportunity to listen to dialogues between numerous international professionals, it has become clear that no one is alone in this work.
Another aspect of my time I have greatly enjoyed is CEELI’s dedication to informing all audiences about the rule of law. In addition to the Webinar Series, I assisted in the production of 'CEELI talks' a rule of law podcast that is available to all audiences. In a four-part series, titled ‘Safeguarding the Rule of Law,’ CEELI talks features interviews and reports from international rule of law experts. What I appreciated most about this work is how it breaks down judicial concerns and experiences, and allows them to become consumed by all audiences. To me, the more individuals who know about the rule of law, the easier it can be to protect. My favorite episode of the series features Judge Vera Doborjginidze from Georgia who spoke about the new normal in her country and how much she valued her community of judges. The same episode also featured Andrea Huber, the Deputy Chief of ODIHR’s Rule of Law Unit. Her interview focuses on judicial issues that are a direct consequence of pandemic lockdowns occurring across Europe, and how different courts are responding and attempting to reopen. Ms. Huber’s interview was particularly interesting to me because she discussed fair trial rights and how they are being impacted in our new normal. As I learn more about the importance of fair trial rights, I can see the challenges faced by the judiciary in our new COVID-19 world.
In addition to the webinars and the podcasts, CEELI has also allowed others to directly learn from their work as well. For one week this summer a local high school student shadowed me in my daily work (virtually of course). I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, as a former educator I am always amazed at how much students truly understand. In just one week, the student shadowing me was able to point out concerning trends in the judiciary and had some of the same questions I was grappling with as well. This was a highlight of my summer. Students are absolutely incredible and some days this work it can feel like there will never be an answer, but when you see younger students interested in these conversations, you can’t help but think there will be a solution.
On a final note for this blog, I must admit I hold some jealously for my colleagues. As the United States struggles with their COVID-19 response, I watch my colleagues live in a country that is beginning to safely open up again. It has been impressive to watch the response of the Czech government. Throughout this process I am constantly reminded of how much there is to learn, but more specifically how much we can learn from one another. Some days the world is overwhelmingly frustrating, but this internship continues to show me that growth, change, and a better tomorrow can all be possible.