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Chinese judges visit Emory Law to study American justice system

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Elaine Justice

Reuben Guttman (right), Emory Law class of 1985, during a financial fraud prosecution session at Shanghai's KoGuan Law School.

This week, 29 Chinese judges arrived in Atlanta for a month-long immersion in the U.S. legal system, as part of a new partnership between Emory Law School, City University of Hong Kong School of Law, and the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China.  

During their stay, they will study U.S. constitutional and criminal law, the rules of evidence, and the role of courts and judges in shaping the Rule of Law. Their studies at Emory are part of their work toward a Master of Laws (LLM).  

"There are tremendous changes underway in the Chinese legal system, especially in the courts," says Emory Law Vice Dean Robert Ahdieh, who spearheaded development of the program. "These are future leaders of the bench, who will shape its path going forward."  

Members of this first class of judges include presiding and assistant judges from Intermediate People's Courts across the country. More than half are women.   

Students will spend four mornings each week attending lectures on U.S. law, starting with an introduction to constitutional law and the role that judges played in the U.S. civil rights movement. They will spend their afternoons with teaching assistants who will work on the course materials with them in small groups, as well as meeting U.S. judges and lawyers in both formal and more casual settings.  

Faculty for the first week are professor Charles Shanor, former general counsel of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, and professor Kathleen Cleaver, a scholar of the civil rights movement, and former leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party. Cleaver will present a one-day session on Judge Frank Johnson Jr., renowned for his landmark decisions during the civil rights era.  

Atlanta's ties to that important period of American law create an ideal setting for the program, Ahdieh says.  

"Emory plans to take advantage of its location at the heart of the civil rights movement to frame the program," he says. "No city in the country is better situated to serve as a training ground in the Rule of Law."  

During the second and third weeks, professor Kay Levine, a former prosecutor, will teach the criminal law section of the program, followed by an introduction to evidence by professor Paul Zwier II, who has taught advocacy skills and dispute resolution to judges and lawyers here and around the world, including Africa, Mexico and China.   

Matthew McCoyd, Emory Law class of 1993 and associate director of Emory's Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, adjunct professor of law and a former prosecutor, will direct the overall program, as well as lead an intensive, multiple-day skills component at the close of the third week. "We want the judges to understand U.S. law in practice – not merely watching others, but standing up and doing it themselves," says McCoyd. "There is no better way to ensure that the learning they take from the course will stay with them."  

The final week will include meetings with judges and attorneys of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the Georgia Innocence Project, as well as others in Atlanta, followed by a trip to Washington, D.C. In Washington, students will meet with judges and Emory alumni, including Reuben Guttman, Emory Law class of 1985, a senior fellow at Emory Law's Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, a leading attorney and the director of Grant & Eisenhofer's Washington office.  

The summer judges' program builds upon Emory Law's international programs in Asia, which include a partnership formed in 2012 with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  

In March, Emory Law faculty traveled to Shanghai to train the financial crimes unit of the Shanghai prosecutor's office on the investigation of insider trading claims. A second training program was offered to the Shanghai Bar Association. These programs were part of a larger partnership with Jiao Tong University, which will allow Chinese prosecutors to train in American criminal procedure and earn a master's degree. 

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