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U of U S.J. Quinney College of Law to Aid Iraqi Judicial Independence

October 7, 2008 – The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law announced today it has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of State to aid the Iraqi government in establishing an independent judiciary with adequate legislative and constitutional authority.

Under the terms of the Iraqi Judicial Independence Project, the Quinney College of Law will establish the Global Justice Project in Iraq. Experts from the law school and outside advisers will provide Iraqi judicial and political leaders with critical assistance in assessing and developing a constitutional and legal framework; devising a strategy for enacting laws and amendments to the Iraqi constitution; and developing a framework for progress on related legislation, including criminal law and procedure.

“This project hopes to help Iraq and the heroic efforts of its judiciary to create a role model for the rule of law in the Middle East,” said Chibli Mallat, a professor at the Quinney College and specialist on Middle Eastern legal systems and policies. “Iraq is presently a unique ground for birth of the terrible and the sublime. We hope that law will help the country embrace more of the latter. There are unique tests for comparative law in Iraq, not least of which is reconciling Islamic law with the most advanced international human rights standards.”

The Iraqi Judicial Independence Project initially will involve several Utah faculty members, including Mallat, Hiram Chodosh, dean of the S.J. Quinney College and an expert in international mediation; and Wayne McCormack, a constitutional and international law scholar.  In addition, the project will call on experts with Iraqi backgrounds and experience in that country. A number of University of Utah law students will be involved in support and research. The project will be conducted at the Quinney College of Law in Utah and at a newly established Global Justice Think Tank in Baghdad. The Think Tank will use mobile teleconferencing and other rapid communications technology to facilitate involvement from experts around the world.

Chodosh said that the creation of an independent and uniform Iraqi judiciary is critical to that country’s democratic future: “The judiciary is primarily responsible for holding political and economic actors accountable to law and enforcing property rights and obligations through impartial judgment. To perform this role, the Iraqi courts must be secure against political violence, independent from undue political interference, maintain integrity in the face of private financial pressures, and operate at a high level of efficiency, especially given frequently inadequate institutional resources.”

Chodosh further stressed that, “we can’t reform the Iraqi system, but we can inform the reformers of the system. We’re committed to developing the capacity of the Iraqi judiciary so they won’t have to rely on outside advisers. We want to contribute in whatever modest way we can and then withdraw, leaving the society better than when we found it.”

To listen to an archived RadioWest interview with Chodosh, Mallat and McCormack concerning the project, click here:

Located at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the S. J. Quinney College of Law is a dynamic institution that emphasizes leadership, as well as interdisciplinary and global legal education. The school is committed to advancing solutions on the critical issues of the day, from the environment to global justice, from health to family law, and from innovation to economic development.