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January 23, 2017

US Judge Advises ABA ROLI’s Court Automation Project in the Philippines

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Judicial Strengthening to Improve Court Effectiveness (JUSTICE) program builds upon over a decade of collaboration with local partners to modernize the Philippines judicial system, and supports government and civil society in upholding the rule of law. Working closely with all levels of the country’s judiciary from the Supreme Court to trial courts throughout the country, the JUSTICE program seeks to promote predictable, equitable and efficient application of the law by automating the court system, enacting criminal and civil procedural reform, enhancing the knowledge and skillset of judges and other justice sector actors and boosting judicial accountability and transparency. eCourt, the case management information system developed under JUSTICE by ABA ROLI, also assists effective court administration by automating the collection of court performance data for use by executive judges and the Supreme Court. eCourt will also serve as the foundation for a unified, standard platform for information sharing not only between different court levels, but between the judiciary and other justice sector institutions including the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, the government branch charged with investigating and prosecuting allegations of official graft and corruption. The JUSTICE program is funded by a 5-year, $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented under the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth.

ABA ROLI recently interviewed Judge Dinsmore Tuttle, a JUSTICE program judicial advisor/mentor in the Philippines and a Colorado District Court judge, to ask about her experience volunteering with the program. 

 Judge Dinsmore Tuttle

ABA ROLI: Please provide us with a brief background/profile of your work.

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: After attending law school I worked first as a public defender and then in private practice with my husband’s civil law firm. After that I served as a state district court magistrate and judge in a court of general jurisdiction for 16 years, before resigning to explore the practice of law outside the U.S.

ABA ROLI: How did you hear about ABA ROLI? What made you interested in volunteering with us?

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: One of my mentors had a career path that took him from being a criminal defense attorney, to the bench, to working with ABA ROLI in Liberia and elsewhere. His passion for what he did with ABA ROLI fascinated me and enticed me to pursue similar work.

ABA ROLI: Describe your work with ABA ROLI. What were some of the highlights of this work?

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: I joined the ABA ROLI court automation project in the Philippines as a judicial advisor/mentor. When I was on the bench in Colorado, our courts transitioned from an unautomated paper system to an almost fully automated one. My evolution from a reluctant bystander to an enthusiastic champion of the new system gave me special insight into the challenges facing the Philippine courts in general, and individual users in particular. Working with judges as they navigated the same transition away from reliance on the familiar paper system to an untested automated one — in the Yolanda-ravaged courts in Tacloban, to those in Davao and Metro Manila — was a particularly rewarding way to appreciate the basic similarities underlying these otherwise dissimilar judicial systems.

ABA ROLI: Did your ABA ROLI experience help benefit your career as a judge?

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: My work with ABA ROLI gave me a far greater understanding of the fundamental importance of the rule of law than any other experience within a western first world country might, and enhanced my career immeasurably. Between my first and second tour in the Philippines, I served on the High Court of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where my experience with various courts in the Philippines focused my ability to better serve a judicial system developed in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. I now sit as a senior judge in a U.S. state district court and view both the process and the consumers with greater depth, as a result of my exposure to how very different cultures and individuals incorporate the rule of law into their daily lives. It serves me, and in turn the people I serve, very well.

ABA ROLI: What was your most memorable moment while at ABA ROLI?       

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: Of the most memorable experiences while working with ABA ROLI was accompanying a delegation of the Philippine judiciary to Bosnia-Herzegovina, to witness the results of that nation’s evolution away from a paper system to a fully automated one. The Philippine delegation witnessed the overwhelming success of the transition of the Bosnian court systems — accomplished during a time when the country was struggling to withstand tremendous political adversity and social upheaval, maintained since, and flourishing still despite ongoing conflict and instability — and left them convinced that their goal of a nationwide automated court system was attainable.  

ABA ROLI: What advice would you give to lawyers interested in volunteering with ABA ROLI?

Judge Dinsmore Tuttle: Anyone who wants to volunteer with ABA ROLI should approach that goal as any other passionately-felt ambition. The process might be burdensome, and the sacrifice will be huge. But the personal and professional rewards may far outweigh the disruption to one’s established routine. The experiences will not only enrich one’s career and soul, but they will also enrich the lives of others, and go miles toward balancing the social inequities of the first and third world divide.

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected]