PR for People Monthly MAY 2017 - Page 9

government, and not always accepted. Several constitutional courts were removed after controversial decisions that limited executive or legislative power. Working with these courts we explored how best to assume and establish legitimacy and power. Often that meant initially choosing cases carefully, and finding consensus based unanimous decisions.

Ron Schiffman: Almost without exception, we are working in Civil Law countries. The role of the judiciary in Civil Law legal systems differs from the Anglo-American legal system in many respects. In the United States, we have a strict separation of powers between our branches of government. Often the lawyers and judges in countries we are called upon to assist have a deep respect for this particular aspect of our democracy and want to replicate it. Because this can involve a shift in governmental power sharing, it necessarily requires delicate negotiation with those holding power. Another important difference is that the Anglo-American system depends upon legal precedent - the controlling interpretation of statutes on subsequent cases within a given jurisdiction.

As a consequence, Pat often walked a tightrope with lawyers and judges who wanted equal respect and authority on par with the controlling branches of government. Part of the job was to help them improve the judiciary in order to accomplish this goal. Frequently, it is judiciary that is the most progressive and democratic of government institutions. This is the reason why taking control of the judiciary is often the first thing an authoritarian government will do to gain power. In order to achieve authoritarian control, they have to - paraphrasing from Shakespeare, kill all the lawyers. *

In Rwanda, one of President Kagame’s goals was transitioning to an Anglo-American legal system from its existing Civil Law system. This was massive task. Because the Anglo-American system relies heavily on well reasoned, written legal decisions, this transition required retraining every judge in the country to write clear, law based, well analyzed decisions for publication that could be accessed and understood by the non-lawyer citizens. The task was somewhat easier because they had a tradition of education and they were highly motivated. The project in Rwanda was extraordinary example of success in a very short period of a few years.

PR4P: Is it more challenging to set-up legal systems in countries that have never had a democracy in place?

Pat Noonan: Yes. For example, Latvia had a vibrant democratic history. After independence from the Soviet Union there were still Latvians who had lived during that period of democracy and honored those democratic traditions. Bulgaria, on the other hand, had never held an election prior to independence. Many Bulgarians favored the former Soviet system and were in fact sorry to see it go. As a result, Bulgaria had a more difficult time implementing democratic reforms.