June 01, 2013

ABA ROLI Helps Kazakhstani Judges Improve their Decision-Writing Skills

June 2013

From April 24–26, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) conducted a seminar on judicial decision writing for judges of Kazakhstan’s first instance courts. The seminar, which focused on international standards and best practices in judicial decision writing, was attended by about 60 people from across the country, including 35 regional court judges, 10 higher court, or oblast, judges, four Supreme Court judges, and eight professors and researchers from the Institute of Justice—which trains judges.

During the training, judges participated in a moot court to apply the lessons learned to a real-life situation.

Judge Anatoliy Smolin, chairman of the Union of Judges of Kazakhstan, kicked off the seminar by welcoming the participants and stressing the importance of the seminar. Smolin said that “[as] judicial decisions are made on behalf of the state” and should be effective throughout the nation and—through international agreements—beyond, the union of judges and the Supreme Court are keen on improving the quality of judicial decisions. Smolin said, “[Following the seminar], we will produce our own regulations on judicial decision writing so that our judicial decisions meet all international standards.”

Two German and two Kazakhstani experts—along with the four Supreme Court judges—led the seminar, discussing the application of international standards in a local context. Discussions addressed the most common stylistic and lexical mistakes in judicial decisions, the difference between description of a case and justification for a decision, as well as disputable and indisputable facts in a case. The trainers also led participants in analyzing actual judicial decisions from the courts of Kazakhstan and held a moot court, allowing participants to apply their newly learned skills, including by writing their own decisions. On the final day, the trainers critiqued the decisions the trainees had written. They also discussed interactive teaching techniques, adult-teaching methods and qualities of an effective trainer.

Additionally, ABA ROLI distributed copies of its newly developed judicial decision-writing manual to participants and unveiled a related distance-learning course, which is now available for all judges across the country. During the discussions, participants shared their recommendations on revising the Supreme Court’s regulations on judicial decisions. ABA ROLI will submit the recommendations to the Supreme Court for consideration. In May and June, eight of the regional judges who attended the April seminar have led four trainings for 175 of their colleagues.

The seminar is part of ABA ROLI’s U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program and was held in cooperation with the Academy of Public Administration’s Institute of Justice, the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan, the Union of Judges of Kazakhstan and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

To learn more about our work in Kazakhstan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.