From February 21-22 the CEELI Institute sponsored a group of eight representatives from the Central & Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network to attend a workshop in Tbilisi, Georgia, co-hosted by the Georgian High School of Justice (HSoJ).  In addition to the eight Network participants who attended the workshop, the Institute also sponsored Judge Jack Tunheim, U.S. District Judge from Minnesota to co-moderate the two-day event.  The HSoJ sponsored ten Georgian judges who represented the first and second instance courts as well as the Supreme Court and recommended First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Mr. Zaza Meishvili to serve as the second workshop moderator. Additionally, Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Justice Konstantine Kublashvili delivered opening remarks and participated in the workshop’s first session.

DSC_0834The overarching theme for the workshop was Combating Corruption and Handling Public Pressure on the Judiciary.  Discussion was fruitful with judges exchanging challenges and successes from their home country experiences and Georgian participants providing an in-depth perspective on recent initiatives and reforms enacted to create a more independent and impartial judiciary in Georgia.

Georgian participants overwhelmingly commented on how beneficial it was for them to learn from the experiences of countries like Croatia and Romania who are only one or two steps ahead of them in the reform and transition process.  And one Network participant from Albania best articulated the importance of the event when he said, “We are countries of similar legal, political and economic cultures so we face similar experiences. We can benefit from Western countries but we cannot copy them. We must exchange information with each other and make the best choices for our countries in order to find the right approach. This is why this specific forum of exchange is so important for us.”