Friday, November 7, 2008

November 6, 2008

November 6, 2008 8:11 PM

Philadelphia International Airport

Brian Williams, my source for network news (Olbermann isn’t really news), has a running commentary on air travel. He flies all over, and broadcasts and blogs about his experiences. He’s more cutting in the blog, but not by much. He gigs them when they deserve it. Which is today, although I’m not done yet. I’m just getting started on this “adventure” (Leslie and I refer to these trips as such; she said this morning: “How about if next time you go somewhere that I would like to go to?” Salzburg it is, in 2010. Although I think Minsk comes before that. (Further note: Doug Duncan told me today that my wife has to be the most incredible person in the world to put up with me doing this. As always, Doug is right). (First “shout out” is to you, honey).

Any way, back to the theme. My preference is to arrive at the airport with plenty of time built in to account for delays at the counter, in the security line, etc. Of course, that means that the earlier I arrive, the more time I have to wait when the flight gets delayed. Which it invariably does, and which it did today. When I arrived at the Palm Beach airport, the guy at the desk told me that my original flight was delayed 4 hours because of problems in Philly, and that if I took that flight, I wouldn’t make the connection. So, he put me on an earlier flight, which was already delayed. Original wheels up time was noon. Actual wheels up was 3:45. An auspicious start. I hope I’m not jinxing the flight to London. This is not the time for that.

I’m meeting up with Brendan, our 25 year old European expert. He’s working at the Florida State University study center in London as a graduate counselor. It’s his third time there. Last year, he worked for FSU in Florence, Italy. Tough gig. We met him there last year. As Lauren says: “Everybody knows Brendan”, because he’s worked in this field in London, Florence, and Tallahassee. I have less than 24 hours with him in London, and we have only two definite items on our agenda: Abbey Road (where my picture will be taken crossing the road, to put next to those of Adam and Brendan), and tea with a barrister I met, Jeremy Dein, in Gainesville this past summer. Jeremy has graciously agreed to meet us in the center of the city, although I warned him that I would be scruffy after my overnight flight. After those two events, it’s up in the air, although I want to see the study center. I haven’t been to London since 1966. My navigation skills will be tested, as I have to take a “Hoppa Bus” to the hotel, then back to the airport for the Heathrow Express into the city. Then, the next day (Saturday), it’s back to Heathrow for the flight to Moscow, where I overnight before heading off on S7 (Siberian) Airlines to my final destination, Novosibirsk. The weather forecast for Novosibirsk calls for declining temperatures (highs from 31 F to 22F, and lows from 25 F to 13 F) through Wednesday. Maybe some snow. Perfect! That’s why I bought the balaclava, running tights, and yaktrax (thank you, Diane).

The point of all this: the Center for International Legal Studies Senior Lawyers Program. The program associates with dozens of universities and law schools in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to send lawyers from the US, Canada, and Australian to teach short (2-4 weeks usually) courses in a variety of subject matters. My course this time is Criminal Law and Procedure at Novosibirsk State University, which is really in Akademgorodok, outside of the city (the third largest in Russia).

I’ve done this in Kaunas, Lithuania and Dneipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Lithuania was a 5 night a week intense course on White Collar Crime. The students were second and third year law students at Vytautus Magnus University School of Law (perhaps the only law school in Europe similar in structure, course content, and Socratic-method teaching). The former dean, Tadas Klimas, (who left just before I got there, and who we finally met, with his family, last week in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he is a visiting professor at Stetson Law School) is an American who modeled the program after US law schools. The students at VMU will be lawyers.

The Ukraine assignment was to the Ukrainian Academy of Customs, and the students were younger, training to be customs agents for their country. The class was more of a basic introduction to the American legal system, including discussions of civil and criminal trial procedure. Some of the students will go on to be lawyers.

This time will be a little different. With the guidance and support of the university, I have planned a course that starts with a discussion of the American governmental and legal systems. Then, we will discuss in detail the criminal justice system, including investigations, arrest, formal charges, pretrial procedures and discovery, and trial. The culmination of the class will be a mock jury trial, with students assigned as prosecutors, defense counsel, jurors, and witnesses, to do opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. This exercise is designed to bring to life the concepts we will have talked about in previous classes. I’m sure they will never have done anything like it before. As I have stated to many people, it will either be a smashing success, or a dismal failure.

Wish me luck.

Until London (maybe).

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