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Russian Judges Study U.S. Judicial System with Illinois Judges on Library of Congress-Based "Open World Program"
June 6, 2002


Five Russian judges will visit Chicago, IL, June 8-15, 2002, on a high-level rule of law exchange sponsored by the Open World Program. Managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development at the Library of Congress, Open World brings emerging Russian leaders to the United States for a hands-on introduction to its democratic institutions and market economy. Open World is the only exchange program housed in the U.S. legislative branch.

The Center conducts Open World's pioneering rule of law program in cooperation with the International Judicial Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal courts' chief policymaking body. Up to 200 Russian judges will participate in the program this year. Leading U.S. federal and state judges plan and participate in the Russians' local programs in special judge-to-judge hosting relationships.

Chief Judge Marvin E. Aspen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is hosting the Russian judges arriving in Chicago this week. The Russian judges sit on five different regional courts: those for Chelyabinsk (in western Asian Russia, bordering Kazakhstan), Pskov (in northwest Russia, bordering Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus), Ryazan (in central European Russia), Ulyanovsk (in south central European Russia), and Volgograd (in southern European Russia, bordering Kazakhstan).

Highlights of the Russian judges' Chicago schedule include meeting with judges of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; observing jury selection in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon; attending briefings by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carol A. Doyle, the Cook County state's attorney, and representatives of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Defender Program; observing trials and a naturalization ceremony; "job shadowing" Senior U.S. District Judge George M. Marovich; touring the Cook County jail and boot camp; and attending the Northwest Suburban Bar installation dinner. The Chicago contact for the Russian delegation's schedule is Northern District Court of Illinois spokesman Dan Lehmann, Tel: 312-435-5607, E-mail:

Members of local Rotary clubs are helping arrange and conduct the judges' activities. Rotary International has played a major role in hosting Open World participants since the program was first authorized in 1999. Before traveling to Chicago, the Russian judges are participating in an intensive orientation session at the Library of Congress-the home of the Center for Russian Leadership Development-in Washington, DC. The delegation's visit to Chicago comes at an important stage in Russia's democratic transition. This year, the Russian Federation begins implementing President Vladimir Putin's recently enacted judicial reform package-one of the main components of which is the expansion of jury trials nationwide. The extensive reforms also include provisions aimed at enhancing the status, accountability, and independence of the Russian judiciary by improving judges' pay and ending their lifetime tenure and immunity from prosecution.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, whose vision inspired Congress to authorize the Open World Program and who chairs the Center's Board of Trustees, stated that "the judges participating in Open World are on the front line of judicial reform. Through Open World, these Russian judges will be immersed in the American system of justice, which provides strong legal protections and equality before the law. It is our hope that their participation in Open World will benefit the Russian judges as they work to implement legal reforms in Russia."

Open World plans to host 2,500 Russians this year on visits focusing on economic development, education reform, the environment, federalism, health, women as leaders, and youth issues, in addition to the rule of law. Participants range from rising State Duma deputies to small-town mayors, from innovative nonprofit directors to experienced journalists, and from political party activists to regional administrators. More than 4,000 Open World visitors from all 89 of Russia's regions have been hosted by 48 states since the program's inception. Program alumni represent a wide array of political parties and ethnic groups, and about a third are women.

The nonprofit American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is handling the logistics of the Russians' visit on behalf of Open World.

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