The Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL)
Posted on September 22, 2007
By VAL WALTON
The judicial systems of Russia and the United States have many differences, but both focus on the principal of justice for all, four Russian judges said they realized this week as they took a firsthand look at how U.S. courts work.
The judges leave today from Birmingham after participating in the Open World Rule of Law Program, a visit that took them from Alabama's Supreme Court in Montgomery to Birmingham based federal and state courts. Among their stops Friday was a tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre, local program director, said the exchange between the Russian judges and the lawyers and judges they met in Alabama was enlightening.
''They have expressed so much interest in the way we function in our system,'' Bowdre said.
Since the collapse of Communism, Russia has undergone major legal reforms, such as the expansion of jury trials, Bowdre said.
The Russian judges queried their American counterparts about how plea bargains work in criminal cases. Bowdre said they were interested in the concept of finding a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In Russia, she said, the standard is guilty beyond a doubt.
Viktor Aleksandrovich Mayboroda, speaking through an interpreter, described the American judicial system as effective. ''It doesn't require a lot of taxpayer's money for its upkeep, which is good,'' he said through the interpreter.
The Russians questioned their American colleagues about the process in civil cases known as discovery, which in the pretrial stage is when each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to discover pertinent facts.
Gennadiy Anatolyevich Demin, a chief judge, said he liked the American judges' independence.
''We heard a lot of useful things. Maybe we will be able to implement them one day,'' he said through interpreter Konstantin Garnov.
[Reprinted with Permission]