While my internship is remote, I was able to go into ABA’s office in DC this week. I had the chance to meet many of my coworkers and speak with them in person. Working remotely is nice at times– I’m glad I can work next to my dog and have to get gas less often, given how expensive it is– but working with people and meeting them face to face is extremely valuable. I’m so glad I got a chance to go into the office in person.
While at the ABA office, I met many people, got a tour around ABA ROLI’s huge DC office, and even got a chance to sit in on a delegation of judges from Kazakhstan. In addition to international and comparative law, I’m interested in immigration law. Knowing this, my supervisor set up a meeting for me with the director of policy and pro bono at the ABA Commission on Immigration. We spoke about the Afghan refugee struggle in the U.S. and how it compared to the research I’ve been doing on the Afghan refugee struggle abroad. We discussed a potential project to help train attorneys to offer pro bono legal assistance to refugees and immigrants. She also invited me to sit in on weekly meetings with the Evacuate Our Allies Coalition, a group of trusted human rights, religious, and refugee organizations working alongside frontline civilians to evacuate, welcome, and support the resettlement of as many at-risk Afghan evacuees as possible.
That week, there was a delegation of judges from the Kazakhstan Supreme Court on a study tour to learn about the U.S. court system. I sat in on some of the sessions. It was truly fascinating and one of the highlights of my week (alongside meeting my coworkers in person and the mouth-watering chocolates that the Kazakhstan Judges gifted the office).
A U.S. attorney and a judge held the two sessions I attended. There was a presentation and then a Q and A session. It was fascinating to sit in on. The difficulties with relying on a translator to communicate, and the fact that the U.S. legal system and Kazakhstan legal system are so different, posed challenges in these sessions. Moreover, the fact that there is often no one concrete answer when it comes to the U.S. legal system made this all the more difficult. The Judges expressed that they were seeking a practical step-by-step description of the U.S. legal process; however, to answer this depends on the answers to many other questions. Are we in federal or state court? What state are we in? What level of court? Who is the judge? Is the defendant likely to show up to court, or do they pose a danger to society? Trying to communicate all this and answer questions through a translator displayed how complicated comparative law can be.
The judges also discussed the Kazakhstan legal system step-by-step, and it was interesting to compare that with what I know about the U.S. legal system. It allowed me to consider the topic from the Judges’ point of view, which was a significant experience. Indeed if I was learning about the U.S. legal system from the perspective of another legal system, say without the federal and state-level court distinctions, I would be entirely frustrated at the lack of uniform/consistent answers. I was born and raised in the U.S., but I spent two years living in South Korea before law school. While there, I enjoyed the many chances I had to view my own cultural and societal norms and rules from another point of view and use this as a tool to understand others better and meet more meaningfully. Sitting in on these sessions reminded me of that.
I hope to visit the office in person a couple more times this summer.