The 12th Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe

The CEELI Institute was honored to welcome presidents and representatives of the Supreme Courts of sixteen countries for the 12th Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe. The Conference meets annually in one of the participating countries, most recently in Bled, Slovenia in October 2021 after a virtual conference in 2020. The Institute stepped in to host the conference when a last-minute change in location was made necessary by Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. We were glad to be able to bring the sixteen delegations to Prague, where they were warmly welcomed by President Petr Angyalossy of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, who opened the conference.

The first session of the conference focused on the courts of Ukraine, with President Vsevolod Kniaziev of the Ukraine Supreme Court discussing the work of the Ukrainian justice system during and in spite of the war. The Ukrainian justice system is not waiting for international tribunals to take up cases stemming from the war but is trying Russian defendants under its domestic criminal code, which prohibits war crimes. President Kniaziev’s presentation included powerful photos of court buildings that have been seriously damaged or destroyed during the war and noted that even when court buildings have been left standing, the theft of computers and other equipment has posed severe challenges to the functioning of the courts. The number of cases being filed has dropped significantly since the start of the war, and the Ukrainian judicial system is moved existing cases to jurisdictions that have the physical infrastructure to hear them. But the cost of rebuilding and equipping that infrastructure will be high.

Four U.S. federal judges also participated in the sessions: Hon. David Campbell (District Court of Arizona), Hon. Barrington Parker and Hon. John Walker (both from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals), and Hon. Clifford Wallace (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). With them, the group also discussed topics important to courts across the region and beyond: access to justice, the role and responsibility of the Supreme Court president, a role for alternative dispute resolution at the trial and appellate levels, getting the message out to heighten public appreciation, and judicial ethics.

The CEELI Institute applauds the work of all sixteen delegations and the U.S. judges in preparing for and carrying out the conference at a difficult time.

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