Workshop Wormholes

The last week or two I have been working on an assortment of projects while my immediate supervisor was on vacation, I traveled across the pond, and I then settled into Prague.  The list of tasks gave me flexibility and variety – following up on events that were already held (like a write-up for the Annual Judicial Network Conference, updating the resource list for the renewed Remote judging course, and continuing edits for the publication on Guidelines for Remote Judging) and introducing me to the planning stage for upcoming Judicial Workshops.

The conference summary and guidelines kept me in the realm of digital justice, but the new courses to be held this fall and next spring (in person, non-pandemic-willing) involve new topics: 

  • Communication Skills for Judges Dealing with the Media
  • Judicial Ethics: Unconscious Bias and Conflicts of Interest
  • Human Rights and Environmental Law Crimes in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Judicial Skills for Dealing with Complex Fraud Cases

I have been doing background research for each of the workshops, finding myself down rabbit holes on various occasions – especially when delving into the realm of environmental law crimes…an area that surprisingly caught my interest in regards to its connection with larger criminal enterprises and human rights concerns.  Interpol and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have co-authored various reports that touch on the subject…commenting on how environmental crimes are growing quickly, but are often overshadowed and viewed as ancillary to the other “serious” crimes they are accompanied with as a whole (“crime convergence”). 

A snippit from the larger report you can see great graphics from here:,_development_and_security-2016environmental_crimes.pdf.pdf?sequence=3&amp%3BisAllowed=

“With the rising involvement of transnational organized crime, criminals coordinate, evade or even shift their focus from drugs, human trafficking, counterfeit products and arms to any new opportunity – hazardous waste and chemicals, forest products, pangolins, giant clams, minerals and illegally extracted gold… Criminals shift swiftly between types of contraband or to alternative geographic locations in response to geographically or thematically limited enforcement operations… Resources allocated to international enforcement efforts against environmental crimes are completely under-dimensioned for containing the growth in environmental crimes… Non-state armed groups, terrorist groups and others are increasingly now also engaging in environmental crimes and thrive on the exploitation of natural resources, similar to the incomes derived from other forms of contraband. This provides them with a low-risk high-profit source of revenue compared to their traditional incomes from other forms of smuggling, human trafficking, drugs or counterfeit products.”

Since the workshops are all at various planning stages according to when they’re set to launch, my guidance and research direction has varied from more set starting points to rather open-ended tasks.  The themes evolve as the process progresses, depending on the faculty who are going to teach the course and resources available that drive the topic.  (Also, since my direct boss is on vacation, I have avoided bothering her with work tasks and have instead dug into what I can uncover on the workshops that don’t yet have a defined plan.)  Media and Unconscious Bias seem like more intuitive tasks, delving into a sociological side of things that interlaces with the law and ethics, while the Fraud unit has presented the most trouble for me so far…partly because there is little structure to its course at the moment and also because I know so little about what that topic can encompass.

Overall, it has been nice to switch between the different subjects and become more familiar with international resources as well as the CEELI Dropbox system (which seemed dauntingly complex to begin with – although that really hasn’t changed when you view the wider folder arrangement, I just feel more comfortable with my little square of operations).