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In August, the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute (Institute) and the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) partnered with the U.S.-based National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) to conduct training for 20 Liberian public defenders. The five-day seminar emphasized trial court techniques, including practical skills such as examining witnesses, writing motions, and preparing opening and closing statements.
In preparation for the training, the Institute piloted a new, more inclusive approach to course development. Before the structure was finalized, international trainers visited Liberian courts and interviewed public defenders. This allowed them to include those topics most relevant to Liberian practitioners and to focus on specific Liberian laws. Additionally, they were able to identify those individuals who exhibited exceptional interest in and dedication to the training topics. These individuals were later provided with an extra day of mentoring and training.
The Institute and ABA ROLI worked with NACDL to develop and implement the effort, which is now the model for all internationally-provided training. In addition to providing training that is responsive to the Liberian context, the approach develops local capacity and promotes program sustainability through early identification and coaching of potential local trainers.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Brooks Robinson, Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh and ABA ROLI Institute Building Advisor Virginia Leavitt provided remarks at the closing banquet. Later, a group of public defenders read a resolution establishing the Liberian National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In part, the resolution reads,
“Understanding the duties and responsibilities of a Defense Attorney and being mindful of our obligation to promote, protect, defend and afford indigents equal access to justice without any string attached; do hereby resolved to establish an organization to be named and styled “Liberian Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (LACDL).”
To learn more about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s rule of law programs in Liberia, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.