Winston Riddick, Professor of Law, Southern University
Trip to Haiti April 17 – 22, 2003
Summary of my conversation with professor Riddick after his trip. His impression and suggestions on The Judiciary Reform and the Teaching of Law in Haiti
Professor Riddick visit to Haiti was an initiative of the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF), the Law School of Haiti State University, and the Haitian Bar Association. Professor Riddick gave two major speeches at the Law School of Haiti State University and at the Palais de Justice of Port-au-Prince. He had interviews with representatives of multiples institutions and also visited the Haitian countryside.
A) The Law School of Haiti State University, like many Law Schools, appears to need periodic self-examination and third party accreditation to provide an adequate legal education.
After meeting with Dean Gélin Collot and various professors of the Law School and members of the Haitian Bar Association, it appears that substantial progress for modernizing and improving the Law School are underway. Additional facilities, computers and discussions about the Law School and Haitian society are all promising evidence of improvement and expansion of the service of the Law School.
He suggests that the Law School give serious consideration to two processes that normally occurred in American Law School: through a committee consisting of faculties, staff and students to do what is it called a self-study of the Law School.
1) As a general rule, this committee would review nation requirement, curriculum, qualifications of the professors, effectiveness of outreach programs in the communities, such as bilingual clinics, equipments and facility needs, and the relationship of the Law School with the university administration and the community at large.
There are standard formats used by the United States Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to provide guidance for the types of questions that the participants of this process may use. Frequently, the participants in the self-study may adopt a revision of the standard formats as the guidelines to define the scope and objectives of the study.
2) The second part of my recommendation is that effort should be made to get a third party quite essential in an accreditation review. A committee of the American Bar Association reviews the American Law Schools. They have a standard set of questions and send a visiting team composed of various professors and others to evaluate the manner the self-study is done.
The additional methodology, though, is to conduct a review of the self-study report, to examine the university records, to verify and document the present condition and problems of the Law School. This committee then makes an accreditation report.
The structure of the third party accreditation effort can be designed to supplement and verify the self-study. Each of the accreditation effort should give credibility to the findings of the self-study and be persuasive in helping to acquiring assistance for the Law School.
The bottom line of both efforts is essentially a need assessment and a determination of the goals and objectives of the Law School for:
- To provide adequate legal education
- To structure services to the community and the State at large
- To serve the professional needs of the Bar Association and its efforts.
B) Networking and outreach programs.
According to Prof. Riddick, the Law School should give serious considerations on adopting a limited, specific curriculum to train mediators.
Members of the Law School, Bar Association and judges could staff this training program. It should have an advisory body consisting of these entities. The purpose will be to train, to power professionals to assist judges with crowded dockets and dispute resolutions.
Each person who attends a stated program with a fixed curriculum would upon completion given a certificate. The Court will only appoint certified mediators to perform mediation tasks under the supervision of a judge.
The litigants, of course, will pay the mediators. The Court will establish their fees in advance. One purpose would be to facilitate the time to move the docket of a judge, but additionally to lessen the judge’s burden on deciding and helping resolve disputes under a certain stated dollar amount.
This activity could become important in helping to tie the Bar, the judges, and a new group called paraprofessionals who are in the communities helping judges resolve disputes. Clearly an example where this mediation activity could best occur is in family disputes, and property, especially boundary disputes.
Each mediator will be certified as a general or a specialized mediator or both. Additionally, each certified mediator would be required to return to the university annually and take a minimum number of hours of instruction to maintain the certification.
C) Introduction with the association of land surveyors
A joint program for certification of land surveyors, notary publics and attorneys, and mediators specialized in revolving land boundary and titles disputes should be developed. Given what Prof Riddick was told of methods of conveyance of properties, it would appear that all these professional groups should be involved in the development of some type of mediation program, which would minimize the number and intensity of disputes as well as relieve the court of the burden of resolving matters, which should have rather explicit standard and specifications by these different professional groups.
D) Vulgarization of the Law
The law School should give, in addition to the mediation program above in a joint program, some thoughts on how to develop through the use of radio, television, or other devices, the dissemination of information about the law. Such programs of newscast, public service announcements, all assist in the creation of respect for the law, credibility of the legal profession, and respect for the legal process.
Professor Riddick is aware that USAID is planning to provide funding for outreach education as it relates to health care in Haiti. He believes that the same dynamic could be use to disseminate information about the Law
The rapidly changing nature of law on international investment and trade, and the world economic environment dictate an almost continuous analysis of the relevance and sufficiency of courses and curricula in preparing law students for their future professional endeavors. The Law School tends to teach the same courses in the same manner over and over after decades.
Realistically, that does not prepare the students for the challenges of present day legal practice. Therefore, the degree of which curriculum and course revision need to be done, should be on the agenda for the self-study and accreditation group. It should be enlarged in such a manner that impute comes not only for within the Law School but also outside of the Law School to give credibility to the process.
F) Introduction of modern day technology
Prof. Riddick believes that the most effective way to bring legal reform may be to have all of the most important Haitian Law digitized and placed on Internet access point so they may be researched and obtained by the average lay person. Prof Riddick stated that presently one of his research assistant is searching the Westlaw and Lexus in the United States to see if Haitian Law is published in the Internet whether in French or in English.
Attorneys sometimes fear if the law is made available to citizens they will not see the need for attorneys to interpret the law and their help to develop legal instruments in compliance with it. It has been proven in the United States that making the law available to the general public increases the volume of business for attorneys.
G) Legal reform and economic development
Professor Riddick stated that legal reform frequently fails when it does not show specific needs and progress in resolving or achieving the solution of problems related to economic development.
For example, in Haiti boundary and property disputes appear, from repeated conversations with professors, business people, and attorneys, to be a major problem for economic development. Therefore, a revision and analysis of the property laws that exist in response of the need for economic development should be undertaken. So after substantial discussions and debates, and quite possibly the development of a method along with mediation services, foreign investors and even local investors would be more willing to invest because of transparency and an understanding of their legal right of property ownership.
Aldy Castor MD President, HRDF (Haitian Resource Development Foundation) Weston, Florida, May 24, 2003
Les hommes de loi fêtent la St-Yves - Posté le 20 mai 2003
Le 19 mai, c’est le jour de la St-Yves, le patron des avocats. Il est fêté dans les différents barreaux d’Haïti cette année. La réforme judiciaire est l’un des thèmes les plus débattus en cette occasion
Pour marquer le jour de la Saint Yves, patron des avocats, les techniciens de la loi ont mis sur pied une semaine d’activités au Palais de Justice de Port-au-Prince. Des conférences-débats sont prévus dans l’objectif de toucher les problèmes de la justice ainsi que les questions relatives à la réforme judiciaire qui devrait être opérée dans le pays.
Cette question de réforme a été mise sur le tapis ce mardi 20 mai 2003. Le docteur Winston Riddick, de la Louisiane, a entretenu l’assistance sur les expériences vécues par son Etat dans le domaine judiciaire et a prodigué des conseils à ses homologues haïtiens qui sont en train de faire les mêmes expériences dans le domaine de la justice.
Selon M. Riddick, dans le domaine judiciaire, les expériences de la Louisiane sont similaires à celles d’Haïti. Il pense que les principes de droits légaux et naturels, ainsi que le système de gouvernement représentatif, sont des valeurs que le peuple haïtien devrait défendre au même titre que ses compatriotes. Mais M. Riddick a reconnu que l’introduction de ces valeurs dans une société implique tout d’abord l’acceptation de celles-ci par les citoyens.
Le technicien de la loi américaine a souhaité qu’un consensus général soit trouvé au sein de la population sur l’importance d’une nouvelle législation.
« Au XXIème siècle, il est inconcevable que les Haïtiens continuent à appliquer le supplice du collier », a déclaré le bâtonnier de l’ordre des avocats de Port-au-Prince, Me Rigaud Duplan. Il a suggéré, lors d’une entrevue accordée aux travailleurs de la presse, que l’une des meilleures actions à entreprendre serait d’informer les citoyens sur la situation de la justice. Ceci leur permettrait de mieux fixer leur position sur ce qui se passe dans le pays et de donner un meilleur avis sur la gestion de la chose publique.
La fête des avocats est commémorée dans les différents barreaux du pays. Cette année, la réforme de la justice est un thème qui anime les débats. Mais comment pourra-t-on y arriver vraiment?