Winter News from the CEELI Institute

Justice Anthony Kennedy and Dr. Madeleine Albright Headline the CEELI Institute’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

On December 8th, the CEELI Institute’s 20th Anniversary celebration was held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. The celebration brought together friends, colleagues, alumni, and many others connected to the Institute since its inception. Retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright both shared insights and recollections of their own experiences with the CEELI Institute and the earlier ABA/CEELI project. Justice Kennedy also announced the establishment of the CEELI Institute’s Sandra Day O’Connor Rule of Law Award, which will be bestowed annually to individuals who, like Justice O’Connor, sought to advance the Rule of Law across the globe.

Engaging EU Leadership in Responding to Attacks on the Independence of European Judges

In October, the CEELI Institute co-sponsored and hosted a high-level roundtable on threats to judicial independence in Europe with the Czech Union of Judges, in conjunction with the Union’s Annual Meeting. Keynote speaker for the event was Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, who is one of the figures at the forefront of current EU efforts to defend the rule of law in Europe in response to attacks on the judiciary, particularly by the Polish government. The roundtable focused, particularly, on attacks to judicial independence in Central and Eastern Europe, with special attention being given to the situation facing the Judiciary in Poland, and the role that the European Union can play in supporting the judiciary. Representatives of several of the Polish judicial associations made compelling appeals for international assistance in the face of the current attacks on them and their colleagues.

Co-sponsoring the 2021 Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe

The CEELI Institute was honored to once again support the organization of the Annual Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, this year hosted in Bled and Ljubljana by the Supreme Court of Slovenia, in October. This Conference was originally launched in Prague, at the Institute, over a decade ago, with the personal support of US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Conference is now a self-sustaining initiative that meets annually, and provides an opportunity for the region’s Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas, and work towards solutions. The CEELI Institute remains the only non-governmental organization invited to participate in the Conference. We recognize that the judicial philosophies of the participating countries differ in significant and substantial ways, yet ultimately, we continue to support this important event in the interest of maintaining and promoting dialogue among the region’s courts on the most pressing issues confronting the judiciaries today. This year’s conference was supported by a grant to the CEELI Institute from the C.S. Mott Foundation.

Launching an African Judicial Network

The CEELI Institute is pleased to announce the launch of a Judicial Network project aimed at supporting the career development of rising trial judges across Africa’s common law jurisdictions. This newest venture will build on CEELI’s decades of work in providing support for judges, particularly our efforts over the past ten years, in coordinating and nurturing a similar network of rising judges in Central and Eastern Europe. That Network is comprised of some of the best and brightest judges from 21 countries in the region who regularly gather to share knowledge and experience on issues such as judicial independence, transparency, accountability, efficiency, and ethics. The Network has facilitated career growth and development for the judges, fostered peer engagement, and also produced concrete tools such as manuals and guidelines to better assist judges in performing their duties. This fall, CEELI conducted its initial needs assessment in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and The Gambia, and was instrumental in identifying priority issues in the region affecting the fair administration of justice and the level of public trust in the judiciary. As part of the Assessment Mission, roundtables were held with judges in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Accra, Ghana. We now look forward to providing an expanded array of program offerings in the region. The project is supported by a grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

New CEELI Institute Publication “Application of EU Instruments in Criminal Justice”

The CEELI Institute is currently concluding its two-year training program for judges from European Union member states, focusing on the application of selected EU Directives in both civil and criminal law. As national judges are required to take these norms into account in their cases, it is essential that they have easy access to practical guidelines. Despite the pandemic-related restrictions, over 120 judges from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania participated in the trainings organized in Prague. The project was conceived and implemented in partnership with the Association of Croatian Judges. In addition to the in-person trainings, we have also produced two brochures, summarizing the use of those EU legal instruments, each in the main project’s languages (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, and Romanian) to be distributed to EU judges and judicial organizations at large. The first brochure, Application of EU Instruments in Criminal Justice, is already available on our website.

Judicial Workshop Series: Strengthening Communication Skills for Judges in Dealing with the Media and the Public

As part of our ongoing work with the Central & Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network, the CEELI Institute organized a two-day workshop to strengthen dialogue and communication skills for judges and court spokespersons at the end of October. The training entitled “Strengthening Communication Skills for Judges in Dealing with the Media and the Public,” gathered judges, spokespersons, academics, and communication and rule of law experts from across Central and Eastern Europe and specifically from Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Lithuania, and Serbia. The tailored workshop provided the participants with knowledge on how to give effective media statements and to make the most out of media appearances, as well as identifying best practices in managing communications during a crisis. The faculty shared regional case studies from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and North Macedonia with many participants sharing experiences from their own countries’ judiciaries.

We had a great experience organizing this workshop and were pleased to see participants demonstrating a firm commitment to improving communication with the public and the media. We are now looking forward to discussing other themes as part of this workshop series: “Judicial Ethics” and “Handling Corruption and Organized Crime Cases” in June 2022, and “Transnational Environmental Crimes” in September 2022.

Welcome to New Colleagues Maria and Kateryna!

The CEELI Institute is excited to announce and welcome two talented new colleagues who have recently joined us. Ms. Maria Ladrón de Guevara joined the Institute in May 2021 as a Program Officer, supporting our activities on anti-corruption. Prior to joining CEELI, she worked as a Program Assistant at the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of law (IIJ) where she supported various programs in Europe and Africa. Ms. Kateryna Rozumyková joined us in October 2021. Prior to joining CEELI, she was an intern at the Permanent Representation of the Slovak Republic to the EU and Embassy of Slovakia in Washington, DC. She is fluent in English, Russian, Ukrainian, and Slovak. Our new colleagues bring a wealth of experience that we know will enhance our ability to deliver and showcase strong online and in-person programs.