February 12, 2014, Vol. 6, Issue 1
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – When U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot of Oklahoma City was recruited in 2006 to host his first Open World rule of law delegation, little did he expect that the experience would open an entirely new chapter in his professional life. Not only has Judge Friot become a regular judicial host for Open World, but he has also made several reciprocal trips to cities across Russia to lecture on rule of law topics and reunite with alumni of his high-quality and high-energy Open World programs.
Judge Friot’s Russian delegates have had a wide variety of interests, including criminal law, administrative law, human rights law, juvenile law, domestic violence law, and civil practice. One constant is that his delegates want to see how U.S. jury trials are conducted. (Not many Russian jurists have experience with jury trials, which have only recently been reintroduced in Russia.) “Our Open World delegates really do learn a lot simply from observing jury-trial proceedings in open court,” Judge Friot says.
In addition to scheduling courtroom observation, Judge Friot regularly arranges for his delegations to have sessions at the law schools in central Oklahoma. This past fall, for example, administrators and faculty from Lobachevsky State University Faculty of Law in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, spent a day at the University of Oklahoma (OU) College of Law sitting in on a mock trial, attending a class on litigation skills, exploring the role of legal clinics in law students’ education, and holding talks with their OU counterparts. As Judge Friot notes, the benefits of these visits flow both ways: “The time our delegates spend at the law schools helps to broaden the horizons of the students who come into contact with them.”
Highlights from other Open World exchanges hosted by Judge Friot include meeting with former Supreme Court Justice , having Q&A with state and county bar association members about their work and bench-bar relations, and learning about the public legal research facilities available at the Oklahoma County Courthouse. The cultural highlight of most of his exchanges is a dinner on a working ranch, complete with a cowboy and roaming buffalo. Judge Friot works with the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City on the cultural and home-hosting components of the exchanges.
Judge Friot firmly believes that Open World rule of law exchanges will benefit Russian justice. “When we talk about ‘rule of law,’” he says, “we are, essentially, talking about such values as openness, transparency, and independence, consisting of freedom from command influence, political influence, and other extraneous influences. Our Open World delegates have the opportunity to see that those values permeate every corner of our judicial system. Over the long haul, there just cannot be any doubt that our delegates’ experience as Open World participants gives them the tools to be more effective in advocating, and creating, the judicial system to which they clearly do aspire.”
US-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program
The FY 2014 competition for the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program is now open. This program provides grants up to $100,000 to support unique projects centered on Russian-American, peer-to-peer collaboration, including an exchange of best practices on a topic of mutual interest. The purpose of the program is to foster greater contacts between Americans and Russians. Both American and Russian non-commercial organizations and academic institutions (both Public and Private) are eligible to apply. Statement of Interest forms are available to download from the U.S. Embassy website or through www.grants.gov and must be submitted to US-RussiaDialogue@state.gov by COB Wednesday, March 12, 2014.