The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
Posted on August 3, 2001
By Randy Ellis
Four prominent Russian judges are in Oklahoma this week as part of the Library of Congress Open World Russian Leadership Exchange. U.S. District judge Vicky Miles LaGrange has coordinated their schedules in the Sooner State. Their arrival last Saturday was most auspicious Ė it coincided with the first rainfall in weeks, a welcome respite from the intense summer heat.
Sunday, the visitors participated in welcoming ceremonies as St. Paulís Episcopal Cathedral and St. John Missionary Baptist Church. That night, Miles-LaGrange hosted a reception for them at the downtown Hefner Mansion, with many of her colleagues from the federal and state courts in attendance. They are staying with Oklahoma families during the visit.
The four Russians are attending both civil and criminal court proceedings, and sending time with law faculty at both Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma. Special learning sessions include U.S. attorney Dan Webber, public defender Susan Otto, Police Chief M. T. Berry and others. Attorneys from the private sector also are discussing issues with them. A highlight comes as they witness a naturalization ceremony for new American citizens.
The visit is part of a sustained effort to establish and nurture the rule of law in Russia, the largest, and most important nation from the former Soviet Union. James Collins, the former U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, observed in his last official press conference. "If in fact the priority for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and the administration is to modernize the economyÖ and participate fully in the system of industrial democracies, then (Russiaís leaders will) have to ensure that the rule of law is the principle of the future."
The Russian parliament is considering judicial reforms, including limited introduction of trials by jury. Optimism is fed by the fact that the reforms could include important anti-corruption provisions, such as limits on prosecutorial powers, improved judicial pay and an end to judicial immunity from prosecution.
The Russian visitors include Judges Olga Valentinovna Gavrilova, Zoya Andreyevna Konyayeva, Aleksand Sergeyevich Nazarov, and Viktor Ivanovich Pashkov. These jurists were selected because of the particular interest in judicial reform they have demonstrated and their professional accomplishments, sponsors said. They previously attended orientation sessions in Moscow and Washington, D.C. Those sessions focused on the political and judicial systems of the United States.
Miles-LaGrange is among seven ranking federal and state judges hosting a total of 36 Russian jurist this summer and fall for the "Open World" program. While four of the judges learn from Oklahomaís legal minds this week, similar groups are visiting Baltimore and Peoria, IL. Itís a pleasure to welcome such prominent visitors to Oklahoma. And they can come every July or August if they promise to bring with them such nice rainfall.
Copyright, 2001 Oklahoma Publishing Company.
From The Daily & Sunday Oklahoman.
Reprinted with permission
[Reprinted with Permission]