October 10, 2007
What are the challenges and obstacles facing justice sector reforms in Georgia? What has been accomplished thus far and what are the future steps that must be undertaken to ensure a truly democratic development of the country? How can the international community assist Georgia in establishing the rule of law? These were among the issues discussed throughout Judge John M. Walker, Jr.’s visit to Georgia during July 16–23, which was organized by ABA ROLI and jointly funded by USAID and the U.S. Embassy in Georgia.
Judge Walker, a Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was invited to Georgia to support and strengthen ongoing reforms in the country. Throughout his stay, Judge Walker met with key players of the Georgian justice system, including representatives of the Supreme Court, the High Council of Justice, the High School of Justice, Tbilisi Appellate Court, and the Parliament Legal Affairs Committee. While in Tbilisi, Judge Walker also met with representatives of Georgian Bar Association, members of the Accreditation Council of Institutions of Higher Education, and the American Chamber of Commerce. Judge Walker also visited Batumi, where he met representatives of the Constitutional Court and Batumi State University. Judge Walker’s visit garnered significant interest from the media. He was interviewed by all major TV channels in Tbilisi and Batumi and details about his visit were covered throughout the week by print media.
A significant part of Judge Walker’s visit was devoted to the Georgian judiciary. Apart from holding multiple meetings with his peers, Judge Walker conducted two judicial trainings (in Tbilisi and Batumi) on judicial integrity and courtroom behavior. During these trainings, Judge Walker shared his own experiences with the participants and talked about the role of a judge making tough decisions in a democratic society with judicial independence. During the visit, Judge Walker became particularly interested in legal education reform issues, which he discussed at length with the Parliament Legal Affairs Committee, the Accreditation Council, law students, and the judiciary. As a result of this visit, USAID and the U.S. Embassy asked ABA ROLI to organize a Regional Judicial Conference in Georgia in summer 2008. The theme of the conference will be legal education. The U.S. Ambassador to Georgia already sent an official letter to the U.S. Supreme Court inquiring about the possibility of inviting the U.S. Supreme Court Justices to participate in the conference.