Anne Rudman, a criminal defense solo practitioner, is the new chair of the board of Lawyers Without Borders, a group of volunteer lawyers who often travel to developing countries to provide access to justice initiatives and to train lawyers in those countries on legal concepts and human rights.
Each trip includes volunteer teams of attorneys and judges who will train dozens of lawyers, judges and magistrates in foreign countries. Since 2005, about 300 lawyers and judges have gone to more than a dozen developing countries as part of the program. When LWOB leaves a country, it assesses the impact of the training and what can be improved to help future visits.
Rudman said LWOB has brought together a large group of experienced lawyers and judges as trainers. Some judges are leading entire training programs, such as Judge Ann Williams of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Virginia Kendall of the Northern District of Illinois; Judge Donald Graham of the Southern District of Florida; and Judge Timothy Burgess of the District of Alaska.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 2000 by Connecticut attorney Christina Storm. Rudman, a 1977 Fordham Law School graduate, has traveled to Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea for LWOB work. She is the first New York attorney to lead the group.
Q: How did you get involved in Lawyers Without Borders?
A: After 25 years with the New York County District Attorney's Office working in [trials, appeals, asset forfeiture], I became a criminal defense attorney. Because my private practice provided some free time, I went to the New York City Bar's Public Service Network to discuss pro bono opportunities. I was put in touch with Christina Storm, the founder and executive director of Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB). Storm needed a lawyer to go almost immediately to Liberia, West Africa for three weeks. I got the job and shortly thereafter went to Liberia for my first LWOB assignment. Since then I have travelled on behalf of LWOB to Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda and Papua New Guinea, plus two more trips to Liberia.
Q: Can you describe your work in Liberia, Ghana and Uganda?
A: In March 2007, I was sent to Liberia, the first country LWOB was involved with, to assess the courts and their resources so LWOB could conduct a trial advocacy training program based on Liberia local rules and customs. When I arrived, I sought the consent and cooperation of the chief justice of the Liberian Supreme Court, Johnnie N. Lewis, for LWOB to conduct an intensive legal advocacy training program that focused on litigation skills, legal research, evidentiary rulings and ethics. The chief justice was understandably reluctant for outsiders to come in and train Liberian lawyers about Liberian law and practice, but he appreciated that LWOB's training program was developed by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy for use in the United States and internationally and would be modified to replicate the issues raised in criminal trials in Liberia. He also was impressed that Judge Ann C. Williams, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, would lead the training program. The chief justice granted permission and even encouraged the country's magistrates to participate.
I returned to Monrovia in July 2007 as one of several trainers. The chief justice was so pleased with the training, which was attended by 40 Liberian prosecutors, public defenders and magistrates, that he asked LWOB to conduct a follow-up training program for Liberian circuit court judges.
In 2008, I went to Kampala, Uganda to determine the feasibility of an advocacy training program focused on the country's imminent passage of its first domestic violence law. In addition to meeting with the architect of the new statute and its draftsmen, I explored potential relationships with the judiciary, prosecutors, defense attorneys (public and private) and interviewed police to determine how they handle domestic violence cases.
In 2012, I went to Accra, Ghana as part of an LWOB team of judges and lawyers who were invited to train a new corps of family law and juvenile justice magistrates. The program was an intense three-day training that featured an entirely original curriculum focused on family law, juvenile justice, children in the courtroom and developmental considerations, managing a courtroom, and other essential skills for new magistrates.
Q: In what areas of the law are you training foreign lawyers?
A: LWOB trains foreign lawyers and judges in areas of gender violence, inheritance and succession, electoral rights, human rights (of the "constitutionally protected" variety), trafficking in persons, family law and juvenile justice, mediation, anti-corruption, anti-crime (money laundering, prevention of terrorism, and prevention of organized crime), court administration, decision writing, general trial skills, ethics and best practices. We are also teaching formal and informal mediation techniques, consensus building skills, communication skills, train the trainer and other skills for resolving conflict. LWOB trains police officers in the areas of investigation, adult and child victims and witness statements and interrogation, evidence collection and report writing.
Q: What is the expectation for what these lawyers can accomplish?
A: The expectation is that all of our trainees will develop a solid grasp of the basic skills and that, over time, they will develop and master more sophisticated concepts, skills, substantive knowledge, trial skills and negotiation techniques. The thought is that access to justice for the community at large will be meaningful if the application of the law to facts is consistent with the intention of the laws' framers and consistent with international principles. If the process is transparent and those responsible for the administration of the laws are capable and honest, they will deserve respect, and hopefully receive it, from members of the communities they serve. After having worked in the field for several years, we have no reason to believe these expectations cannot be realized if we do our job well. The people need to trust their judges, have confidence in their lawyers—that they are not corrupt, they know the law and they can secure access to justice. If the lawyers and judges we train can do that, the benefit to the local population is that the law is working for them.
Q: What kind of resistance have the lawyers had to overcome?
A: One of the most difficult aspects is the reality that no lawyer or judge works in a vacuum; and if our programs are to succeed, all of the stakeholders must be involved. After LWOB completed its first training in Liberia in 2007, the post-program assessment work indicated that while the attorneys were excited to use their newly acquired techniques and skills in the courtroom, the judges they were practicing in front of were confused by the methods and ordered them to return to the regular method of questioning and presenting their case. LWOB addressed this issue by training the judges alongside the attorneys in our next training.
Another challenge is that working in countries with governments that some perceive as politically and socially volatile requires extreme flexibility in scheduling and handling unexpected occurrences. While the work is challenging and immensely interesting, it comes with risk, at least in certain parts of the world, and we can never lose sight of that. So, a big challenge is managing that risk.
Q: Is there reluctance from foreign judiciaries?
A: Besides the initial reluctance from the chief justice in Liberia, we encountered another obstacle a few years ago when we tried to implement legal training in the essentials of prosecution of human trafficking cases. While the international community perceived Liberia as having a major human trafficking problem, we were told that human trafficking did not exist in Liberia. Nevertheless, we received permission to train 45 judges, lawyers, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel. Some of the trainees have since prosecuted the country's first human trafficking cases. More recently, local law enforcement alerted LWOB about an active human trafficking ring that was operating within the country and will probably result in the country's largest human trafficking prosecution to date. LWOB prepared graphic novels, trainer manuals and "toolkits" for local law enforcement officers investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
Q: How do law firms and U.S. judges work with LWOB?
A: LWOB has developed a model that involves up to 10 international firms in a supportive relationship with LWOB. These firms are part of the PBLL: Pro Bono Law Link model. We are different, we think, from other groups that also work closely with large international firms in that we structure and closely manage projects with law firm partners, and, as a rule, we have grant funding that underwrites the hard costs (printing of materials, manuals or other products created by the law firm). Each of the law firms has its own personality and a very clear-cut sense of the type of pro bono projects, themes or initiatives it wants to pursue, and LWOB works very hard to meet and match our program needs to our partner firms' interests and skills.
The judges are critical to our training abroad, particularly when we train other judges. We take a peer-to-peer approach ensuring that the judges we train are exposed largely to senior judges and lawyers in our training environment.
Q: How are volunteers' travel costs paid for? On average, how much do you pay in out-of-pocket expenses per trip?
A: Volunteer trainers in LWOB trainings are either self-funded or funded through their law firms. We do not get involved in the mechanics of how the firms fund the lawyers they send. Travel expenses for judges are underwritten by LWOB's program budget. The average cost per trip varies based on the country, length of program and other factors, but realistically participation in a week-long training program will run an individual or firm from $4,000 to $5,000—with airline costs as the largest single variable.
Q: What's your most memorable experience during a trip?
A: LWOB sent me to Nairobi, Kenya, in the spring of 2008 to assist with the implementation of an advocacy training program that August that focused on Kenya's underutilized "Sexual Offenses Act of 2006." After attending several court sessions, it became apparent that the prosecution of rape cases depended upon one person: a doctor in Nairobi who was solely responsible for verifying whether a rape or sex assault had occurred. Unless this doctor had examined the victim and then provided her with a completed documentation form for survivors of rape/sexual assault, the case would not be prosecuted. It proved hard to track down this doctor given his numerous responsibilities including testifying in courtrooms throughout the city. On the last day of my trip, I learned that the doctor usually examined rape victims on Friday afternoons on the grounds of the police headquarters a few miles from the center of the city. To make sure that I didn't miss him, I arrived an hour before he was expected and joined a long line of woman who stood in the hot midday sun waiting outside a tiny two room office for his arrival. The doctor candidly admitted the difficulty with rape and sexual assault prosecutions caused by the legal requirements imposed upon victims and the unavailability of any other doctors to help him. I understand that the Legislature has changed this requirement and victims can now go directly to hospitals for the report.
Q: Can you describe the living conditions, security and access to amenities in the cities you have visited?
A: Since LWOB insists that its volunteers stay in very secure facilities, one of my duties in Liberia, Uganda and Kenya was to locate safe and affordable hotels that were conveniently located by training facilities. Prior to my arrival in Monrovia in 2007, I understood that there was only one hotel that was recommended that fit this criterion. However, shortly before I flew to Liberia, I learned that burglars had committed a murder at the hotel. The hotel, which posted 24-hour guards, became my home-away-from-home for the next three weeks; hotel management even allowed me to rearrange my room so my desk overlooked the beach and ocean. All the countries LWOB works with are safe (as is true everywhere in the world) and the amenities good. The chosen hotels usually have a big international clientele. More importantly, the local people are extremely hospitable, friendly and generous and the food is delicious and varied.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of meeting the organization's goals and expanding the program?
A: Many NGOs and international players have come and gone, along with their financial support, especially as funding turned to other regions whose needs matched those of Liberia 10 years ago. One challenge for LWOB has been the patience required to develop relationships with countries and then sustain them over a long period of time. This is also true in nurturing relationships with our partner law firms as well as international and local NGOs. LWOB has created a pro bono collaborative model that enables it to interact with law firms like Shearman & Sterling, McDermott Will & Emery, Gibson Dunn, Jones Day and Linklaters and corporate partners like Thomson Reuters. Consequently, LWOB is not always completely dependent on third-party grant funding. LWOB considers its work with Liberia over the past nine years one of its success stories. It underscores the importance of time in developing relationships based on a depth of understanding and appreciation of the country's rule of law issues. LWOB's success can be attributed to its founding mandate of neutrality and independence. LWOB makes inroads in legally fraught areas because it tries to understand the landscape and then provide awareness. LWOB does not advocate transition and change. In fact, LWOB does not advocate.
Q: Can you tell me about your practice and how LWOB has influenced your work?
A: Although I have spent my entire career as a criminal lawyer in New York City, my involvement with LWOB has given me a far greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of "the rule of law" as a reality—not simply a concept. This principle applies in the courthouses of developing countries as well as 100 Centre St. My goal as a defense lawyer is to communicate to my clients and their families what is happening and enable them to make choices. By doing so, I hope they eventually realize that the process is transparent and they have received a fair hearing. Also, I, too, take full advantage of the NITA teaching model to hone my trial advocacy skills.
Q: What does a U.S. lawyer gain from volunteering with LWOB?
A: As much as it sounds like a cliché, the most common phrase that we hear at LWOB from participants on both sides of the training is "life-changing." For the quintessential lawyer who loves the law, meeting lawyers and judges in other countries, having in-depth conversations about the law and the administration of justice in places most only read about is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that changes your world view. A testament to that is this: Where else in the world is there a wait-list to work long hours for seven to 10 days straight, without remuneration of any sort, at a personal cost of up to $5,000?