Post-Conflict Justice Seminar Pairs Students with International Hot Spots

Thanks to Professor Christie Warren, at left, students in her post-conflict justice seminar have had a chance to make an impact in the development of legal systems in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine and Moldova. As a result of Warren’s involvement in the Kosovar constitution drafting process, Shana Hofstetter ’08 will further her studies in legal development work as an intern in Kosovo this summer and Ryan Igbanol ’07 will travel there after graduation to serve as the lead coordinator for the constitution-drafting team and its advisors. Photo by JW Donahue.

Topics in Christie Warren's “Special Problems in Post-Conflict Justice” Seminar at William & Mary Law School may range from caseflow management to anti-corruption policies to comparative criminal procedure, but the heart of the seminar lies in the work her students are doing.

"My students are serving as long-distance law clerks," Warren said, "doing real work and making a real impact in the development of legal systems around the world."

The 12 law students in Warren's class have been paired with agencies and projects in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine, and Moldova. Each pair has been assigned a Rule of Law supervisor actually working in or with each country, and they have been given specific assignments for writing and researching legal issues relevant to the development of legal systems in that country. The supervisors are people with whom Professor Warren has worked with through the years in the Departments of Justice and State, the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Center for State Courts.

"My students are able to perform viable work while studying the law, and we are receiving good feedback from the field," Warren said. "It is also a great opportunity for them to experience all the things that can be done with a law degree and the great need for post-conflict reconstruction."

Lisa Purdy, who will graduate from the Law School in May, is working on a Justice Sector Support Program in Afghanistan through the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. She and her partner Rob Eingurt, also a third-year law student, have been researching a proposal on comparative law and the development of a public defender system in the Republic of Afghanistan. Their work so far has included analyzing the public defender system in Islamic and developing countries and asking if non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are sustainable, if a centralized or local public defender system would be more effective, or if a panel of appointed lawyers would be more viable.

"Afghanistan faces so many challenges to redeveloping its civil society," said Scott Ciment, Advisor to the Afghanistan Justice Sector Support Program of the U.S. State Department, who oversees the work of Purdy and Eingurt. "Afghanistan's legal community has been shattered by the decades of civil war and now only about 250 lawyers are registered to practice in the entire country. Our program focuses on building the capacity of criminal justice officials, including prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys."

"We are trying to design a sustainable and effective public defender system," Purdy said. "One of the pillars of Islam is to support the poor, so we are working with their Ministry of Justice and the United Nations to develop the organization, education and training for lawyers, and funding for a public defense system."

The students are also doing research on behalf of a country where lawyers many times don't have access to electricity, never mind legal databases like WestLaw.

"Given my past experiences abroad, and studies in international development and law," Purdy said, "I pursued a seat in the Post-Conflict Justice Seminar. Upon graduation, I will work at Powell Goldstein in Washington, D.C., in their government contracts and international practice groups. Having an opportunity to create contacts within the realm of international law, and to be able to do practical work in conjunction with their efforts is essential in becoming an effective lawyer."

Michael Sweikar and Ryan Igbanol, both Class of '07, are teamed with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecution Development, Assistance, and Training as law clerks. Their work has focused on Ukraine and Moldova, primarily on standards for ethics and conflicts of interest, enforcement of financial disclosure systems, the organization of international investigative units with governments, and developing specialized units to monitor asset disclosures. They have also researched international laws and treaties established to counteract terrorism.

"One of our first assignments," Igbanol said, "was researching conflict of interest standards and asset disclosure regimes for public servants in various countries."

"This course has given me the opportunity to work on real assignments in Ukraine and Moldova - an opportunity law students at most schools do not get," Sweikar said. "The course assignments are more meaningful when you know your work might have an impact on legal reforms being implemented in countries throughout the world. Professor Warren's contacts in the post-conflict justice and reconstruction arena have been invaluable."

On behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Center for State Courts, Shana Hofstetter's and Kate Ginivan's (Class of '08) research has focused on witness protection programs around the world, specifically those in developing countries.

"Some interesting ideas have come out of our research in Colombia, South Africa, Kosovo and Brazil," Hofstetter said.

They are now working on customary law and the use of the informal justice system. In many countries, including Haiti, the informal justice system, that is, the system outside of the confines of the government and often administered by traditional leaders rather than political leaders, deals with the majority of criminal and civil conflicts. Many Haitians use these informal systems due to geography, cost, and language barriers. The Haitian court system is conducted in French but many Haitians speak only Creole. According to Hofstetter, they are finding information about how well these various systems of conflict resolution work and how victims fare within those systems. Their research has also encompassed Afghanistan, South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia and Guatemala.

"I actually knew I wanted to go into legal development work before coming to law school, Hofstetter said. "Before entering William & Mary, I worked at an economic think-tank that specialized in economic policy in developing countries. I knew this was work I wanted to do and this class gave me a great opportunity to start doing it before graduation. This is one of the best classes I've taken at law school because I'm working on real issues and not just hypotheticals."

Peggy Ochandarena, a program officer with the National Center for State Courts, who is supervising the Haiti team, said that the research on customary justice has broadened the scope of work normally done by law students. Ochandarena said she hopes that their research will show NCSC how the informal systems work, how they can be strengthened and then linked to the formal court system, and what can be learned from the informal system that could be incorporated into Haiti's formal court system.

"Shana and Kate have interviewed sociology and anthropology professors at William & Mary in addition to research on the law. I was happy they were willing to step outside the realms of traditional legal research to provide work that is beneficial and practical for the real world situation in Haiti," she said.

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) has occupied Dustin Birch, JD '07, and Maryann Nolan, JD '07, this semester. Both have been working for Melanie Peyser who is ISC's Director of Civil Society, Justice and Anti-Corruption in Washington, D.C. Peyser asked Birch to research court-monitoring organizations and to develop recommendations for how court monitoring might be implemented in Ukraine in order to increase the openness of the system, and to decrease corruption.

"Professor Warren is great and this class is an incredible learning experience," Birch said.

Second-year law students Kathy Lawrence and Emily Reuter are working with the Justice System Reform Program in Kosovo that is trying to ensure Kosovo's transition to an impartial system of justice while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of court operations.

"Emily and I began by researching actual reforms to civil procedure and court administration in Western European nations," Lawrence said, "that reduce both delays in court proceedings as well as case backlogs, hoping that this information may help implement similar changes in Kosovo for similar improvements. The biggest challenge is identifying reforms that are not only effective, but conform to the costs constraints inherent in a post-conflict country like Kosovo."

The pair then did research for a documentary being made on the Kosovar litigation system.

"We actually researched the execution and progression of the Rule of Law in countries with similar histories - Hungary, Slovenia and Bulgaria - and provided a brief overview of each country for use in the film's script as contextual and background information."

In their most recent project the two are researching how countries have structured their judicial inspection functions, functions which ensure that the courts work in keeping with established standards, and that hold judges accountable.

"Our contact in Kosovo wants to learn which branch of government oversees that function in other countries," Lawrence said, "as well as how their inspections are conducted and any processes that exist to ensure the independence of those inspections."

"I became interested in this seminar because my fiancé, an attorney, worked on a Rule of Law project in Iraq on an information technology infrastructure for Iraq's judicial system," Lawrence said. "Prior to this seminar, I hadn't done any research on international law or judicial systems of other countries. I am enjoying this seminar more than my traditional law classes for its highly-practical nature and for the opportunity to do hands-on work that may be used in some way to implement actual reforms to the Kosovar justice system."

Daniel Keister, a consultant with the U.S. State Department, oversees the work of Erin Ashcroft, JD '07, and Christopher Sells, JD '08, who are researching Rule of Law issues for Iraq.

Ashcroft and Sells are researching different issues like comparative criminal procedure - crime scene evidence, and internal investigations in legal or human rights violations - as well as issues that arise when working within a present-conflict environment.

"The students are doing great work," Keister said, "and I think they will be very successful if they follow their paths in law into Rule of Law work."

"I have had the opportunity to use my creativity in developing novel approaches to establishing a modern docket in Iraq," Ashcroft said. "Iraqi courts have a backlog of up to six months, and the lack of a modern docket has resulted in prisoners being held for indefinitely long periods, without knowing when and if they will ever go to trial. This has given me a chance to delve into specific problems in war-torn nations, such as lack of e-mail, poor phone communication, and difficult and dangerous ground transportation between courthouses, police stations, and prisons, in the context of developing a modern docket system."

"This course isn't just for people who are planning to go into post-conflict reconstruction, or international law," she added. "The seminar work has opened my eyes to different work opportunities in the legal world - opportunities in which the work that I perform can have a significant impact helping those who need it most."

Professor Warren, a Senior Lecturer in Law at William & Mary Law School, is also the director of the International Training Institute for International Bridges to Justice (IBJ). IBJ, an NGO headquartered in Geneva, was established by a coalition of lawyers, academics and business leaders to provide resources, and form partnerships with countries to improve their legal systems. IBJ's work so far has centered on China, Vietnam and Cambodia, but last year, the organization received a grant from a U.S. foundation to create a global institute to train human rights advocates and contribute to the legal development of criminal justice systems in post-conflict and developing countries. Warren directs this training institute which has its headquarters at William & Mary Law School.

Warren holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a juris doctor degree from the University of California at Davis. As director of the International Training Institute, Warren has conducted training assessments in China, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, developed training curricula and manuals, and is currently hiring and supervising staff to promote justice system reform in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Warren returned from Kosovo in late March after having been named one of three U.S. advisors to the Kosovar constitution drafting process. As a result of Warren's work, two of her students will benefit directly. Ryan Ignabol will serve as lead coordinator for the constitution-drafting team and its advisors, and Shana Hofstetter will be interning in Kosovo this summer. "All in all, William & Mary will be very involved with the Kosovar constitution-creating process this summer," Warren said. "It's very exciting."