CEELI Institute Completes Series of Trainings in Burma

Supporting the Myanmar Lawyers Network

In August and October, the CEELI Institute continued it efforts to provide organizational assistance and practical advocacy skills training to the Myanmar Lawyers Network (MLN), an independent group of Burmese lawyers who are committed to providing pro bono legal assistance to those in need, and who have championed causes of political freedoms, human rights, freedom of expression and land rights for marginalized communities. Multiple programs were held by the Institute in both Yangon and Mandalay. This project is implemented together with the Burma Center Prague, and with support from the Czech Foreign Ministry.

The MLN is led by some of Burma’s most experienced defense lawyers, including many of whom are former political prisoners. Cases that the MLN takes on often include representation of poor village communities trying to assert legal claims to land —which also typically involves fighting off attempted “land grabbing. Other cases involve protecting the right of freedom to assemble.

2014-08-23 at 12-16-54In addition to their pro bono efforts, the leaders of the MLN are also committed to providing professional development and support services for its own membership—now numbering in the hundreds, and including the newest generation of young Burmese lawyers. The MLN fills important gaps in training and mentoring young lawyers in a country where legal education skills (especially for the younger generation) are low and where there is little access to professional support. The need for trainings and education and the lawyers’ enthusiasm are vast. The Institute is supporting the MLN with programs providing technical skills training designed to improve courtroom skills, case preparation abilities and legal research skills of the next generation of young lawyers.  The Institute is also working closely with MLN members to develop a cadre of talented young lawyers who will act as trainers in their own communities. Much of our August and October efforts focused on bringing along this core group of trainers. Institute programs are also focused on the practical steps necessary to improve the organizational capacity of the MLN, and assist it in achieving its own goals of delivering an expanded program of in-service trainings and public outreach.

Burma 026

CEELI Institute Reports:  “Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Myanmar“

Working closely with the International Legal Assistance Network (ILAC), the CEELI Institute recently co-authored a report entitled “Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Burma,“ published in October 2014.  The report was principally authored by William D. Meyer, Chair of the Institute’s International Advisory Board and is based on ILAC/CEELI assessments, interviews, surveys and experiences from our training and assistance projects in Burma. The report provides in-depth background on the current state of the legal profession in Myanmar, and details the challenges facing the legal community there as it emerges from decades of repression. Ultimately, the report makes a strong case for continued engagement with Myanmar’s legal community, which will be a key element for the defense of human rights, and the establishment of the rule of law in that country.

Emerging Faces: Lawyers in Myanmar

CEELI Executive Director Speaks at Anti-Corruption Conference in Stockholm

On October 20, CEELI Institute Executive Director Christopher Lehmann participated as a keynote speaker in a roundtable organized in Stockholm to address how international development can support business in tackling problems of corruption. The program was jointly organized by the Stockholm based International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute, and held at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Lehmann addressed specific mechnisms employed by international development implementers to combat corruption in developing societies, followed by a Q&A with the audience. The CEELI Institute partners with ILAC on implementing programs in Tunisia, including efforts to support the Tunisian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Pictured: CEELI Institute Executive Director Christopher Lehmann in Q&A with Helena Sundén, Secretary General aof the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute

Thoughts on the Romanian Judicial System

Judge Cristi Danileț, a member of CEELI’s Central and Eastern Europe Judicial Exchange Network and trainer on CEELI’s Tunisia programs, recently blogged about the past, present, and future of the Romanian judicial system. Here are some of Judge Danileț’s thoughts:

  • “The result of this way of organizing the judiciary, in late 2003, are disastrous: a single case with a politician convicted for corruption, only a few magistrates convicted for corruption under probation, lack of transparency, public confidence in the justice was at the level of 22%. Personally, I can say with certainty that at that time the career of judges and prosecutors were controlled by politicians and the Romanian judiciary was not independent. The justice was inefficient.”
  • “At the end of ten years of reform, the results are extraordinary: people above the law in the past, are now in prison, convicted for serious corruption offenses; prosecutors conduct investigations in a neutral way, destroying crime networks comprising businessmen, politicians and even judges; Judges sanctions farms; process takes more quickly. Confidence in the justice reaches 44%.”
  • “We need an authentic professional culture of judges: magistrates understand now their social role and participate actively in the life of the city.”

To read the blog post in its complete form, please click here.


CEELI Institute Completes Training in Warsaw

On October 5-6, the CEELI Institute in cooperation with the Polish Judges‘ Association, Iustitia, jointly hosted a judicial training workshop in Warsaw on the topic of caseload management and organizing the service of a judge.


The meeting brought together members of the CEELI Institute’s Central and Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network, including judges from Albania, Lithuania, Romania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Macedonia, with their Polish counterparts. CEELI Institute board member, the Honorable Judge John Walker of the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, along with the Honorable Judge Katarzyna Gonera from the Supreme Court of Poland provided opening remarks as well as moderated discussion over the two days.

In his opening remarks, Judge Walker stated:

“A bedrock objective in developing a sound system under the rule of law is building public respect for the courts and the administration of justice. Of course that requires good decisions by the courts and judges who are independent, clean and incorruptable. But public respect is also a function of sound administrative practices. Such practices should, to the greatest extent possible: reduce unnecessary delays, eliminate opportunities for corruption, and promote transparency.“

Over the course of the two days, participants shared best practices on case allocation, organizing the staff of a judge, and effective methods for preventing and eliminating backlogs, among other things.

Judge Mindaugas Šimonis of Lithuania delivered a presentation on how recent reforms in his country’s court system have led to more efficient caseload allocation and management. Judge Cristi Danilet also shared the Romanian experience, particularly the role of the Judicial Council in setting administrative standards for the courts.


Polish colleagues, Judge Lukasz Piebiak and Judge Barbara Zawisza, discussed with the group the different challenges presented in civil versus criminal courts. Judge Walker suggested that a system of mediation could be employed to help reduce backlog and facilitate settlements.

Participants from Poland, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina felt that mediation had yet to be successfully used in their respective countries due to cultural reluctance as well as economic barriers. In Poland, for example, people prefered to have a decision from the court on their case rather than to reach an agreement with the other party. Beyond that, court fees are much lower than fees for mediation, providing little economic incentive to mediate a dispute.

Participants from Lithuania and Romania felt that mediation had begun to overcome cultural barriers in their countries, but that pilot programs and proper economic incentive structures were needed to help effectively implement mediation programs.


On the second day of the workshop, participants were hosted by Judge Gonera at the Supreme Court of Poland. They received a tour and were also invited to join the President of the Supreme Court, Professor Lech Paprzycki for coffee and a conversation between him and Judge John Walker on issues of court administration and judicial independence.


In the final workshop sessions, Judge Anna Bednarek and Judge Aleksandra Rutkowska, shared the best practices they learned from their experiences working for the Eurlex mission to Kosovo and the European Court of Human Rights. Both of these presentations presented good comparative frameworks for court administration and case allocation.

The CEELI Institute thanks Iustitia for partnering with the Institute to host this workshop.

CEELI Institute and Burma Center Prague Training

On October 6-12, CEELI Executive Director Christopher Lehmann will visit Burma for trainings conducted in partnership with the Burma Center Prague for the Myanmar Lawyers Network. The workshop will focus on the theme of “Lawyering in a Democratic Country.” Discussions and trainings will focus on basic skills for case organization, leadership, and professional development. We look forward to updating you on the outcomes of the trainings later this month.