On my first day of work, Project Manager Violaine assigned us an interesting project – assisting with preparing judicial training modules, which will be used by the United State Department of State (INL) to prepare judges in different countries through transition from inquisitorial system to adversarial system. The module I was working on was about the judge’s role in an adversarial trial process. John was working on the module about forensic evidence (link).
Since we haven’t take any evidence class yet, this task turned out to be very informational to both of us. Through the research process, we had a good preview about evidence, especially scientific evidence. Compared to John’s module, which largely focused on forensic evidence, my module was more general about evidence, and actually focused more on the adversarial system and the judge’s role in it. I came to realize that the distinctions between adversarial and inquisitorial system are far more complicated than I thought. Although the adversarial trial process is typically associated with common law system and the inquisitorial trial process with civil law system, the two philosophies of the trial process do not have a clear line between them, and it became more so in the past decades because a number of countries have adopted extensive reforms of their criminal justice systems. For example, many Latin countries have changed their criminal trial processes from inquisitorial to adversarial; meanwhile, a number of other countries started to adopt inquisitorial elements into their criminal trial processes, such as Australia. It is also crucial to understand the role of the judge in the trial processes, because the judge serves not only as a manager of the courtroom, trials and cases, but also as a neutral arbiter in cases. The judge also plays important role in handling evidences and experts, and in the plea negotiation process, to ensure procedural fairness and the pursuit of justice.
Besides researching on all aspects of advantages and disadvantages of the two legal systems, as well as legal reforms in different countries, I had another task: to develop a series of fact patterns reflecting judge’s ethical dilemmas. These fact patterns will be used as exercises for judges in the training process. While working on the fact patterns, I read many real life scenarios that are really interesting. For example, what a judge should do if his wife is running for state representative, or, what a judge should do when his decision was criticized by local medias. Things can get more complicated when cases involve a judge’s relatives and friends.
Last Thursday and Friday, John and I helped finalizing the powerpoint and the curriculum manual for the training modules, and our team managed to submit the stage 1 deliverables before the deadline. It felt really good to have our work included in the final product. Now we are waiting for revisions from the Department, and the next step - stage 2 will mark the real completion of this project in August.