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PFP alumna Tatiana Puiu, advocating for judicial integrity and transparency

November, 24 2015

OUTBOUND PROJECT REPORT

Title of Project: Advocating for a “gold standard” model of judicial integrity, transparency and accountability.

3-16 October, 2015

 

PFP Fellow: PUIU Tatiana

Project Director at the Lawyers for human rights

www.lhr.md

 

 

US Participant: Scott Greytak,

Policy Counsel and Research Analyst at Justice at Stake

www.justiceatstake.org

 

 

I. Goals of Project

Project Goals

Goal 1. To increase the transparency of the judiciary in Moldova through evaluating the institutional implementation of justice reforms enacted in 2012 by learning from the experience of Justice at Stake, the only national organization that focuses exclusively on keeping courts fair and impartial in the United States.

Goal 2.  To enhance judicial accountability in the Republic of Moldova and to improve functioning of the implementation of the Law on the Superior Council of Magistrates.

Goal 3.  To share the U.S. experience regarding protecting the justice system through public education, litigation, and reform.

II. Objectives of Project

Objective 1

To analyze and identify from the U.S. experience the practices and policies that best serve the interests of fair and impartial courts in Moldova.

Objective 2

To construct a “gold standard” model for selecting judges in Moldova – one that focuses on both values desired in individual judges and values desired in court systems – and to initiate conversations with stakeholders in this regard.

Objective 3

To engage in-depth consultations with allied organization in Moldova, stakeholders, and researchers to determine best practices for selecting and evaluating judges.

Objective 4

To get learn about Justice at Stake’s experience in advocating for a “gold standard” model for selecting high-quality judges, free from political influence or corruption, and keeping them on the bench.

Objective 5

To increase the public’s awareness of the importance of fair and impartial courts in Moldova.

III. Implemented Activities

Sunday, Oct. 4th

Scott arrived in Chisinau when Moldavians celebrate National Wine Day Festival. We visited MIMI Wine Castle and in the evening celebrated the festival at International Exhibitions Centre “MOLDEXPO”.

Monday, Oct. 5th

David Jesse, Country Director for American Councils in Moldova, kicked off Scott’s outbound program by diving into a history and overview of the American Councils’ Moldova office. Scott was briefed on the offices’ resources, program goals and metrics, as well as how the program would be organized and implemented for maximum impact.

 

 

From there, Scott met with American Councils alumni Andrei Briceac, an attorney with PB & Partners, to begin the customization of the gold standard merit selection system project. Andrei and his firm colleagues gave an overview of his organization’s civil society programming, and explained the “Public’s Press Room" – which offers the public an opportunity to respond to developments affecting transparency and corruption. Scott

shared insight and guidance on advocacy strategies and “lessons learned,” and heard from Andrei and his colleagues about the political, cultural, and legal history of Moldova, including the reform efforts that culminated in sustained judicial reform in neighboring Romania.

Tuesday, Oct. 6th

Scott spent his day at the office of Lawyers for Human Rights, where he received a briefing on the practices and policies that work to promote fair and impartial courts in Moldova. He then reviewed a recently enacted law on Moldova’s judicial disciplinary board, comparing it to comparable federal and state legislation and codes of judicial ethics from the United States.

 

In order to contextualize this review, Scott analyzed a series of reports recapping the implementation of various judicial reforms in Moldova, discussing his impression with Vitalie Zama and Vitalie Nagacevschi from Lawyers for Human Rights, and providing feedback on the statutory framework of the new law and its implementation.

Wednesday, Oct. 7th

Scott’s third day in Moldova saw him meet with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Mihai Poalelungi, for a productive and inspiring conversation about barriers to and opportunities for transformative judicial reform in Moldova’s near future. Scott briefed Mr. Poalelungi on the structure and operation of judicial elections in America, the work of Justice at Stake, recent reform efforts that have been implemented in a variety of target states in the U.S., and most importantly, the ambitions behind the gold standard merit selection system.

The President outlined recent and future milestones for judicial reform in Moldova, accenting model systems such as Germany and Great Britain, and engaged in an in-depth conversation about best practices for selecting and evaluating judges. Scott and Mr. Poalelungi touched on the importance of professional development as a key prerequisite in judicial selection criteria, as well as the importance of enforcing and adhering to objective criteria during the evaluation process. They concluded by illustrating the importance of the media and of public education in the U.S. and Moldova, and by exchanging stories and examples of the symbiotic relationships between these institutions and cultural norms. Scott’s experience was capped off by a private tour of the Supreme Court of Justice, led by the President himself.

 

 

Next, Scott met with Stephanie Chetraru and Ina Pislaru from the United States Agency for International Development (US AID). Scott focused on the interplay he had found between Moldova’s economic and legal systems, and Stephanie and Ina were able to contextualize these thoughts by providing additional information on the geopolitical and economic trends affecting Moldova, the European Union, Russia, and the United States. Scott also learned about US AID’s budget and programming regarding judicial reform.

Later that afternoon, Scott observed a court proceeding in a court of first instance in Chisinau. The case was litigated by Tatiana Puiu, and gave Scott a chance to see the Moldovan legal system in operation and up close.

Thursday, Oct. 8th

As the Superior Council of Magistrates convenes bimonthly, Scott’s trip was coordinated to give him an opportunity to see the council in action. Before speaking with a member of the superior council, Scott met with a staff member of the Center for the Prevention and Analysis of Corruption, who outlined various transparency issues affecting the council and available remedies. With these thoughts in mind, Scott spoke with a member of the council for nearly two hours, discussing Justice at Stake’s experience in designing a gold standard merit selection system, in insulating judges from political influence, and about the importance of including the public in the functions of the court. Scott stressed his belief that laypersons should serve on the evaluation and disciplinary boards in order to increase transparency, accountability, and public investment in the fair and impartial operation of the courts.

Friday, Oct. 9th

After a busy week of meetings and work adapting the gold standard system for the Moldovan court system, Scott joined other American Councils participants for a regional tour that included the Cricova wine cellars, the Capriana monastery, and a football match between Moldova and Russia.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, Oct. 11th

Scott visited Milestii Mici Winery which is included in the Guiness Book, tasted traditional food and wine.

 

Monday, Oct. 12th

Ziarul de Garda, a prominent and well-respected newspaper in Chisinau, sent Scott a comprehensive list of questions focused on judicial reform that kept Scott busy throughout the day. The interview are available in print version of the newspaper from October, 22 edition. Scott also had an opportunity to collaborate with Tatiana and her colleagues in order to customize the criteria and goals of the gold standard selection system in light of feedback from Tatiana, her colleagues, and other stakeholders.

 

 

Tuesday, Oct. 13th

At the School for the Advanced Study of Journalism, Scott spoke with over a dozen practitioners about the role of the American media in protecting courts and promoting social change. Students asked about Justice at Stake’s advocacy and communications strategies, and Scott shared examples from the American experience, including the impact of the Washington Post’s investigative journalism during the

Watergate scandal of the 1970s, and the milestone U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Sullivan that paved the way for expansive legal protections for the press.

 

Next, American Councils Fellow Valentin Croitoru Jr. took Scott through Moldova’s main administrative building. He shared with Scott a newly developed database that houses, tracks, and gauges the implementation of various policy commitments and

 

government obligations focused on development.  Scott concluded the afternoon with a tour of Moldova’s Natural History Museum.

Wednesday, Oct. 14th

Wednesday the 14th was a federal holiday in Moldova. Scott spent the day at the “City Day” festivities in the center of Chisinau that celebrated the culture and history of the capital city, and which featured folk music, dancing, and local art.

Thursday, Oct. 15th

As the development of the gold standard merit selection system neared completion, Scott met with Radu Foltea and Ludmila Bilevschi from the U.S. Embassy, who provided him with the American prospective on Moldova’s judicial reform efforts. Topics of discussion ranged from the recent political instability facing Moldova’s coalition government to the critical importance of economic development and its correlation to corruption and the appearance of corruption in the judiciary.

Friday, Oct. 16th

Scott flies back to the US.

IV. Impact

Considering the goals of the project and the specific activities, the main deliverables of this project are as following:

- The U.S. participant  got acquainted with the Moldovan rules on the selection and career of judges, their performance evaluation’, bearing in mind that in U.S. most judges are elected by the people. Moldovan partners had the opportunity to work with the civil society U.S. representative, gained experience on justice corruption issues, leaded a research and policy development project on creating a “gold standard” merit selection system, including research considerations relevant to increasing diversity;

- The stakeholders learnt about Justice at Stake experience in advocating for a “gold standard” system of selecting high quality judges and keeping them on the bench;

- P.P. “Ziarul de Garda” (local newspaper) conducted an interview with the JAS participant, where he had the possibility to relate to the general public all the relevant issues regarding the project, the activities, and the lessons learned, and best practices for reform. The article has a great impact for the general public, as the print edition alone has more than 3,300 copies weekly. The link of the interview is available on http://www.zdg.md/editia-print/exclusiv/tarile-cele-mai-sarace-din-lume-sunt-cele-mai-corupte

The quantitative results of the project are measured by the number of the recommendations drafted after the discussions in order to construct a “gold standard” judge’s for merit selection, the number of meetings with stakeholders, their feedback and the interview developed and disseminated.  After publishing the recommendations, as for qualitative results we expect to strength on the capacity of civil society to monitor authorities efforts to reform the judiciary, to disseminate information on the effectiveness of legislative measures regarding the new evaluation and selection of judges procedure, and to inform the stakeholders about best practices from the U.S. and Moldova on issues regarding the merit selection model of judges.

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