On Saturday, June 14, 2014, a team of five members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), led by NACDL Indigent Defense Counsel John Gross, departed for Liberia to conduct a five-day training workshop with Liberian public defenders and trainers from the James A.A. Pierre Judicial Institute in an effort to improve the quality of criminal defense in the country. The workshop is a part of an ongoing project of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC): Promoting Rule of Law & Governance in the Criminal Justice System in Liberia. The training will begin today, Monday, June 16, 2014 and conclude on Friday, June 20, 2014.
Increased training for public defenders in Liberia is an important component of improving the country’s overall criminal justice system. Ensuring the adversarial process functions properly is necessary to increase public trust in the criminal justice system and to secure to all Liberians the right to counsel guaranteed to them by Article 21(c) of the Liberian Constitution.
To this end, members of the NACDL team will provide training to public defenders in Liberia. The training will focus specifically on raising the pre-trial and trial advocacy skills of Liberia’s public defenders. NACDL is also the process of building a “criminal defense manual,” which will be used to assist in the training of future Liberian defense lawyers. Earlier this year, NACDL Secretary and Executive Director of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem Rick Jones, traveled to Liberia to support the planning and research of the upcoming training.
The members of NACDL’s team include: John Gross (Washington, DC), Elizabeth Kelley (Spokane, Washington), Marjorie A. Meyers (Houston, Texas), Martin A. Sabelli (San Francisco, California), and Lisa M. Wayne (Denver, Colorado).
This is the second time that NACDL has sent members to Liberia on such a mission. In 2009, a team of NACDL members traveled to Monrovia, Liberia to work with the Liberian Supreme Court’s James A.A. Pierre Judicial Institute. During that trip, NACDL conducted an initial training attend by all lawyers at Liberia’s Public Defense Office, which had been formed earlier in 2009. That training was conducted together with representatives of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, the International Legal Assistance Consortium, and the Liberian Bar, training public defenders and members of the private bar in fundamentals of criminal defense. That training also included a day of instruction for Liberian journalists covering the Supreme Court of Liberia.
This blog will be regularly updated over the coming days with reports and photos from the team in Liberia. For more information on Liberia and its legal system, check the links on the right side of this page.