The Justice Defenders Program mobilizes the legal community to respond to the global crackdown on civil society and support at-risk lawyers. So far, the Program has supported threatened attorneys, prosecutors and judges in over twelve different countries on every continent. The Program's support has resulted in the activists' releases from prison, dropped charges, improved conditions of confinement, increased protective measures, reinstatement to the bench, decreased restrictions on the independence of the bar and increased investigations into violent attacks against lawyers.
See below for examples of the Program's public work to support lawyers, judges, and the legal process.
As the Guatemalan Congress selected new Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges, the Justice Defenders Program emphasized that the Congress must require the candidates to disclose to the public documents concerning their past legal work and hold open hearings examining the candidates’ records.
As the Guatemalan Congress reviewed nominations for new judges and magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice and appellate courts, the staff of the Center for Human Rights prepared this preliminary report on international standards and practices concerning the selection of judges in a manner that is objective, transparent, and non-discriminatory. The report summarizes international standards and comparative practices in different countries, including in particular the judicial selection process in the United States. The ABA has participated in the selection of federal judges in the United States for nearly 60 years and monitored judicial selection proceedings around the world. Based on this experience, Center staff respectfully offer a number of recommendations relevant to the pending proceedings in Guatemala.
The Justice Defenders Program monitored the disciplinary proceedings of Judge Alina Czubieniak, an embematic case in a crackdown on the independence of the judiciary in Poland. The Program highlighted growing evidence that, in addition to the threat to judicial independence posed by the Disciplinary Chamber's creation and process, the Ministry of Justice has used the new process to target judges whose rulings are inconvenient and to chill legitimate and protected free speech.
In conjunction with other ABA entities, the Justice Defenders Program denounced the Polish government’s sweeping reforms to crack down on the independence of the judiciary.
The Justice Defenders Program interviewed Mikolaj Pietzrak, Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association, to discuss the erosion of judicial independence in Poland and what we can do to help.
Threats to judicial independence – not discussion of the Holocaust – are the real threat to Polish democracy
Brittany Benowitz, director of the Justice Defenders Program, warns the Polish government’s campaign against judicial independence in Poland could culminate in a more pliable justice system, largely unable to fulfill its critical role of upholding Poland’s Constitution and the rights of its citizens, and thereby eroding the rule of law.
On November 18, 2020, the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland ruled to lift Judge Igor Tuleya’s immunity so that the prosecutor’s office may pursue criminal charges against him for his decision to permit media attendance at a December 2017 hearing in his courtroom. The November 18 ruling was the culmination of an ongoing campaign by the National Prosecutor’s Office against Judge Tuleya in recent years due to his public criticism of the PiS government’s judicial reforms. This report outlines the various disciplinary inquiries that the prosecutor’s office has instituted against Judge Tuleya since 2018, as well as the proceedings before the Disciplinary Chamber concerning his judicial immunity.
The ABA is deeply concerned with the decision of the Advocates Disciplinary Committee in Tanzania to permanently disbar Ms. Fatma Karume from practicing law in Tanzania. The ABA is concerned that the excessive punishment imposed on Ms. Karume, a lawyer who is a vocal critic of the government and involved in a case challenging an action of the government, threatens the rule of law.