First Day of Work
CLARD opens at 8:30 am but work officially starts some several minutes after 9 am. The staff converses over coffee and cigarettes for the half of an hour. Anton instructed me to report to work at 9 am on Monday. Anton introduces me to everyone and I’m surprised to know two of my coworkers know Turkish. That’s good because I speak Turkish too. I spent a semester in Istanbul in 2013.
CLARD has another intern – a local undergraduate law student. But there is only one intern desk so I’m given Nenad’s desk because he works out of the office a lot. My primary assignment is to determine how citizens access the justice system in Kosovo, analyze the faults of the justice systems, and propose reforms. I spend the first two days doing background reading and research on the primary institutions in the justice systems.
The Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) are responsible for appointing judges and prosecutors and insuring that the courts are independent and impartial; both institutions are supposed to be independent. The Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC) investigates complaints of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. That office is also supposed to be independent. The Kosovo Judicial Institute (KJI) provides training and continuing legal education for judges and prosecutors. KJI is also independent and impartial on paper. But that’s the tragedy of Kosovo’s laws – they look good in writing but are rarely implemented properly. Corruption, budget processes that create influence, lack of resources, general public distrust, and a lack of transparency and accountability diminishes much of Kosovo’s justice system’s claim to independency and impartiality.
Part of a Panel at Illyria
That first day of work, Anton invites me to a lecture at Illyria College at 6 pm. CLARD closes at 4 pm. Ashley gets off from D4D at 4:30 pm. I ask Anton if Ashley can come along. Of course. And Ashley is happy to come. But we get lost trying to find the college because I left my rough sketch of directions from our flat to the college in our flat. So we walk uphill, ask directions, walk further uphill, ask directions, walk downhill, ask directions, walk through some narrow streets, walk further downhill, ask directions… We’re going to be late. Anton calls and I tell him we’re lost. He gives me some instructions and says he’ll wait outside of the University for us. But it’s already past 6 so I tell him to go in without us and we’ll quietly slip in and sit in the back. Anton insists on waiting outside. Ten minutes past 6 we finally make it to Illyria college and Anton is waiting outside as promised.
We became active participants in the lecture. It was more of a panel actually. We sat with the two professors, Anton, and Arbane (another co-worker) in front of the room facing a dozen students. We introduced ourselves and responded to the professor’s inquiry about how we liked Kosovo so far. We talked about how Americans accessed the justice system. Then the professor opened the floor for questions from the students. Several students asked us about various aspects of the justice system in the United States including alternative dispute resolutions.
We were back on campus for a legal clinic opening at Illyria College on Tuesday. Mirjeta (pronounced Miryeta), the other intern at CLARD, came with us. We spent several hours conversing with law students at the clinic while Anton and Arbane spoke to beneficiaries (they aren’t called clients because they don’t pay) and filled out forms to take back to the office. CLARD has six legal clinics. One or more CLARD workers visit the clinics once each week, fill out forms, and return the next week with recommendations and documents to submit to various institutions.
That same day, I joined Ashley for a roundtable on graduation testing hosted by D4D. The moderator began by outlining the rules – seven minutes per speaker and three minutes for each question or comment. We sat near the exit with a professional translator who was there just for Ashley’s and my benefit. At first the roundtable seemed monotonous, but it became increasingly interesting as the speakers abandoned the rules and yelled across the small bar room interrupting one another and banging the table with their fists. It took the moderator forever to call on Ashley who waved her hand in the air during the comment period, but she did. Ashley explained how the standardized testing works in the United States and asked if it was possible for Kosovo to adopt a similar system. At first, the speakers ignored her question, but just before the event ended, one of the more vivid speakers addressed her point. I don’t quite remember what he said. We went to Soma for drinks with our translator afterwards. I had fruit juice.
I had breakfast with Ashley, her boss and co-worker Wednesday morning. Ashley’s boss with a great sense of humor. He treated us to some amazingly delicious borek – a pastry with various fillings – meat, potatoes, cheese, or spinach and cheese. I had spinach and cheese, and it was almost as good as the borek I had in Istanbul almost two years ago.
I had my first interview with a representative of one of the justice institutions. Zef Prrendercaj is the director of the Office of Disciplinary Council. The ODC is responsible for investigating judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. Citizens, media and civil society organizations send complaints to the ODC – usually of delays in cases and corruption. The ODC conducts a preliminary investigation to determine the merit of the complaint and proceeds with a full investigation if there is enough evidence to suggest misconduct. Once the investigation is complete, the Office writes up a report with recommendations for sanctions and presents it to the Disciplinary Committee in the KJC or KPC, and the Disciplinary Committee conducts a hearing and imposes sanctions.
But like other institutions, the ODC is not entirely independent or impartial, or at least citizens don’t perceive it to be. Prendercaj, the director, is appointed by the KJC and KPC – institutions with judges and prosecutors his office is responsible for investigating in misconduct cases. In addition, ODC’s budget needs to be approved by the Councils before it reaches parliament. And just a few years ago, the prosecutors’ offices in Pristina was located in the same building as ODC. But Prendercaj says ODC’s major concern is getting enough funding and more experienced staff to meet the requirements of its mandate.
I spent the rest of the week transcribing my interview with the ODC, doing additional research and writing a brief about the ODC. Anton and I met Genc Nimoni of the Kosovo Law Institute for coffee on Friday and set my interview with him for Monday morning.