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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A New Judicial Perspective

Habeas Corpus, due process, trial by jury. These are the concepts that hold the US legal system together and try to provide fairness to those accused. This is the basic principle that the American judicial system rests on.

This concept, however, is not so strongly held in all countries. In some, trials are clean-cut and short-winded, where the verdict is decided before the trial and little chance for a defense is possible. Such disparities have brought the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Democracy and Development to seek to advance the US legal system’s appearance in the eyes of the world. Through the foreign exchange of judicial delegations, the CDD has provided an opportunity for many in other countries to view the US legal procedure.

Dr. Edmund Beard, the Director of the CDD, with the help of his associate, Erica White and the Massachusetts Judges Conference, a private association of the state’s judges, has helped guide the exchange between the judges of Massachusetts and many other nations regarding legal principles and procedures.

The program takes active judges and brings them to other nations in order to spread awareness of the various legal approaches employed in the US. Once there, the judges speak with their counterparts in face-to-face discussions, a conversation among equals. Throughout the last three years, the program has evolved to include moot courts, or simulated court proceedings, in order to provide a demonstration of the American legal system.

Recently, the CDD received its sixth grant from the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This grant is rather unprecedented for the State Department and indicates the true worth of such a program. With constantly shifting relations between the US and China, where the program is currently active, this judicial exchange is extremely vital in reaching the people themselves.

While this program is currently only with China, the CDD has conducted similar exchanges in Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia in the eight years since the programs inception. Beard described the reception of the judges’ delegations as an “overwhelmingly warm welcome, and said the program was “extremely successful and wildly popular […] with huge massive crowds of students, judges and the media.”

There were so many people, he continued, that some were even hanging in the windows from outside in order to witness the proceedings. On one occasion, fire officials had to be brought in because of the fire hazard posed by the sheer size of the crowd.

In the Chinese legal system there are no juries. Criminals are accused and evidence is presented against them with little opportunity for a defense to be built. Another rather significant difference, according to Beard, is that unlike the Chinese system, the US allows for two opposing sides; it is an adversarial process with rigorous defense strategies that are unique to those watching.

The ability to question the authorities, such as police officers, and the ability to put them on the witness stand in order to challenge the veracity and the worth of the information they provided, are some of the factors that such hosting nations have rarely seen.

While there have been extreme success, there have also been limitations. In the past, when US-Chinese relations have been shaky, the Chinese government has, on two separate occasions, denied the program access to the country. It is unknown how long this series of exchanges will last but Beard and White hope that, with any luck, they will be busy with such international exchanges for a long time to come.

The Program Lowdown? So far roughly 24 American judges went to China and about 12 Chinese judges came to the US.? The group, including Beard and White, has just come back from another trip that included 10 state judges in mostly the western provinces of China. The two co-leading judges were Judge Wendie Gershengorn and Judge Peter Anderson.? The most recent visit was to Chong Qing, Chehgdu and Kunming. Past visits also included Beijing and Nanjing. The reason they are held in mostly rural areas of China is because these parts are too often overlooked by most of Western society and so the group felt it best to spread it out.? Even though much of the past eight years of exchanges have been rather one-sided, with US judges visiting the Chinese courts, there has been at least one Chinese delegation that came to the US in order to reciprocate and present their legal system.? In consultation with the US embassy, the CDD personally selects each judge who is to be a member of any given exchange delegation, even to the point of traveling to China in order to meet the individual.