Afghan Delegation Shown the Ropes of the U.S. Legal System

In The News
March 10, 2010

Ropes & Gray recently presented an “Introduction to Defense in the U.S. System” to a delegation of leading Afghan defense lawyers. The delegation, sponsored by the Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan (PPP), visited the firm’s Boston office as part of its professional development trip to the United States.

Lost in much of the news emanating from Afghanistan—reports on war, civil strife, illegal narcotics production and sales, and cross-border Taliban insurgency—are the stories of a renewed effort to create a formal Afghan legal system. In the last few years, the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) was formed to license and regulate lawyers. Defense attorneys are now beginning to appear in court to represent clients rather than submit a written defense statement, as had long been common practice.

The PPP, led by former Massachusetts lieutenant governor Kerry Healy, is a State Department-sponsored, volunteer-run program that is involved in recent efforts to advance the establishment of rule of law in Afghanistan. The delegation it brought to Ropes & Gray included the president and vice present of the fledgling AIBA, as well as leaders of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The three-part seminar featured an overview of defense work led by partner Rob Skinner with associate Kristin Ali, a session on special issues for criminal defense lawyers with associate Eric Christofferson, and a session on private lawyers and pro bono work led by pro bono manager Roz Nasdor and associate Jenny Rikoski. Associates Joshua Cippel and Minh-Chau Le provided supplemental background research on the emerging Afghan and existing U.S. systems.

For the Ropes & Gray team, working with the Afghans was an inspiring experience. “The people in the delegation are in the midst of creating a system—it takes courage and it takes imagination,” said Nasdor.

"We felt honored to share some bedrock principles of the American legal system with our Afghan colleagues, the pioneers of Afghanistan's legal profession,” said Rikoski.