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What does a young government lawyer do when a king asks her husband to come play golf in the Himalayas for three months — and bring along the family? If her name is Carrie H. Cohen, she finds her way to the chief justice of the Kingdom of Bhutan and drafts parts of a modern legal system for the rapidly developing nation, leaving her husband to the fairways. Later this year, the Bhutanese national assembly is expected to adopt a new legal system — including the evidentiary and penal codes written by Cohen, 35, an assistant attorney general in the civil rights bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. “I have such a strong belief in our [American] system. It helps maintain the rule of law,” said Cohen, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School at a time of fundamental progress in international justice — namely the fall of the Soviet Empire and the end of apartheid in South Africa. “Right when I was graduating, a lot of people were going [abroad] to help write new constitutions. “Being from a civil rights background, which has included a lot of work on constitutional issues,” she said, “I thought if I could ever get the opportunity to do international work, I’d grab it.” Opportunity knocked in 1999 when Cohen and her husband — golf professional Rick Lipsey, a staff writer at Sports Illustrated magazine — vacationed in the Himalayan mountains. “We’d spent our honeymoon in Nepal, and this time we went to the nearby Kingdom of Bhutan, where we added several days to our trip so that Rick could write a story about golfing in the Himalayas,” explained Cohen. “So Rick was giving tips to people at the Royal Thimphu Golf Club. They’d never had a pro. Everything they knew about golf, they’d learned from videos and magazines brought in from Bangkok [Thailand].” The king surprised Cohen’s husband with an open invitation to teach golf to Bhutanese adults, and to create a golf program for children. When it sunk in to the couple that the king’s offer was sincere, Cohen saw her chance. “I decided it would be very interesting to work in a foreign country and help created sophisticated laws,” she said. “So I contacted various Bhutanese people we’d met and become friendly with, I put out some feelers in Washington, and one thing led to another.” In between one thing and another, Cohen gave birth to her daughter, Claudia, which meant postponing the couple’s stint in Bhutan until last year — when Attorney General Eliot Spitzer gave his blessing for Cohen’s leave of absence. Meanwhile, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, chief justice of the High Court of the Kingdom of Bhutan, was in the midst of expanding the nation’s master legal code to meet the more sophisticated requirements of passage from an isolated Buddhist enclave to a full member of the world community. “My proposal actually dovetailed nicely because so much of the chief justice’s work had been tabled, and yet the need for it was getting ever more pressing,” said Cohen, who worked with a Bhutanese civil law clerk to complete what Lyonpo Tobgye had begun. A year from now, April 2004, Cohen expects to return to Bhutan for another round of international law. “The king is voluntarily abdicating, and there is a new constitution to write,” said Cohen. She plans to bring along her husband because “golf is the international language.”

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