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Center for International Legal Studies

| Nov 13, 2010 | Firm News

Azov Institute of Management

Berdyansk, Ukraine – October, 2010 – Herbert J. Friedman, Lincoln, NE

This was the second assignment my wife Kathy and I had for CILS. Last year we went to Novgorod, Russia. This year we went to Berdyansk, and Lugansk, Ukraine, for two weeks, Thanks in large part to the help of our friend, translator and over-all tour guide, Professor Dmitry Kaminsky our experience gets high marks.

Ukraine was a good fit for me since my grandparents migrated from that part of the world well over a century ago in the wake of the pogroms that erupted after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881. I was virtually raised on the same type of food that we had during our visit to Ukraine.

The nation currently known as Ukraine, formally referred to as The Ukraine, is an area slightly smaller than the state of Texas, but larger than France. It is the largest nation in Europe, outside of Russia. It generally runs from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to Russia in the east and from the Black Sea in the south, north to Belarus .There are 24 regions or oblasts, two cities with regional status, and one autonomous state, Crimea. The Dnieper River runs down the center of the country and flows into the Black Sea, very similar to the Mississippi River basin. This area of the world is inhabited by people known as the East Slavs going back 1500 years. Kiev was the first capital of Russia and is currently the capital of Ukraine. The current nation of Ukraine was never an independent political nation until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prior to that the area was largely ruled by Russia and the Soviet Union in the east, Austria-Hungary in the west, and occasionally Poland. There are virtually no natural frontiers, making it a difficult nation to defend. The current nation of Ukraine was cobbled together after World War I, became an independent state for a few months and was rapidly incorporated into the Soviet Union… During World War II, it was occupied by Nazi Germany. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine became an independent nation in 1991. The current constitution was adopted in 1996.

The population of Ukraine is approximately 47 million people or about twice that of Texas, is declining and has a low birthrate. People tend to marry late and have few children. While nation is very urbanized; there are thousands of acres of farm land. Driving in the Ukrainian countryside is reminiscent of driving in the Midwest. The people are about 85 percent Ukrainian, 15 percent Russian, and the balance is a mixture of other nationalities and races. The population is almost entirely Orthodox in religion, although I sensed a very strong secular attitude in younger people.

The principal language is Ukrainian, but many speak Russian, and people converse freely in either language. Both use the Cyrillic alphabet, with a few letters in Ukrainian that are not in the Russian version. .

The country has many things going for it, including an attractive and well-educated population, with 99 percent of the population literate; abundant natural resources making it one of the most agriculturally productive areas in Europe; and Black Sea ports. Unfortunately, there are also some significant problems, including a lop-sided economy, with about 99 percent of the economy controlled by one percent of the population; a very small middle class; and difficult transportation. Many large cities are not served by air transportation. Very few people have automobiles, compared to Western Europe and the U.S… The roads tend to be two lanes and not well maintained. It is for the most part a cash economy, .Credit cards are not universally accepted; however there are ATMs all around. A sizeable portion of individual income goes to food and shelter.

During World War II, the country was invaded by Nazi Germany, and completely occupied. Stalin had invaded the country in the 1930s and murdered millions of people, and the Nazis were first looked upon as liberators, However, it did not take long to determine that they were as vicious and brutal as the communists. During the war, the Ukraine lost 10 million people, which about half of the total loss of the Soviet Union of 20 million. Many of the cities were completely destroyed. During the war, there was a military unit of Ukrainians that fought for the Nazis. The Jewish population, which was one of the largest in Europe, was completely decimated as a result of the war. There are some small Jewish communities in Kiev and Odessa.

Ukraine is now a new constitutional democracy, after a 1500 year history of authoritarian rule. Ukraine has a strong central government; an elected president, who serves a five year term, who appoints a prime minister, the foreign minister and minister of defense. The prime minister appoints the heads of the various agencies, such as police and education. . All governmental functions are controlled by the central government in Kiev. There is no federal system and no local control. The police, courts, and all governmental functions are run on a national basis. The legislature, Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) is a unicameral legislature with 450 members. All is run from Kiev, including setting the date that all schools start (September 1st) and the date that central heating is turned on all over the country (Oct.15th)

Berdyansk, Ukraine


Berdyansk, Ukraine

Berdyansk, population 125,000, is located in the Zaporizhia Oblast,( Region), , population 2.6 million, which is, in the southeastern part of the country, The city is a pleasant resort and seaport on the Sea of Azov, which is located to the east of the Crimean peninsula is more shallow part of the Black Sea. . It was destroyed during World War II. There are many Soviet era buildings in the city. Most people live in apartments. We stayed in a comfortable one bedroom apartment located on the promenade that runs along the seaside for approximately a mile, with a view of the sea… The promenade was roughly the width of a football field, and very well maintained with interesting sculptures scattered along the way. The main street of the city, known as Lenin, runs perpendicular to the sea walk We were at the intersection of the two streets, and in the heart of the city… There are many shops and restaurants located in the area, including a large open farmer’s type market which sold everything from flowers to fish… Our apartment was located about 15 minutes by car from the Institute, which was a bit too far to walk. Professor Kaminski provided transportation to and from to and from class Aside from Professor Kaminski and a few other faculty members, we found few English speakers. There were several restaurants that had English menus, but this was an exception rather than the rule. There were very few landline phones and most people used cell phones for communication. I was able to communicate through email with something called People Net, which was a flash drive that could be rented, and internet time purchased from through local banks. When I plugged the flash drive in my computer, I was able to reach the internet. I use both the internet and Skype while in Berdyansk.

Azov Institute is a branch of the national university of the region,. Enrollment was approximately 1,000 students, and the law school enrollment was about 400 students. .Legal study in Ukraine is an undergraduate education. The school was a three story structure, about the size of an elementary school, with no elevators located on the outskirts of the city.

I taught a course entitled, “Introduction to American Civil Litigation,” which was basically an overview of our civil justice system, touching on the history of our constitutional system, the jury system, evidence and pleadings and discovery. . It was a twelve hour course, taught over a course of six days, with power points for each day. . Although I was able to use PowerPoint, none of the classrooms were set up for that technology. Professor Kaminski translated for me the entire time, except for a few days later in Lugansk. The students were 19 and 20 years old, equally divided between men and women. There were about 30 students per class.

I distributed questionnaires to the students, which were helpful. All of the students were from either Berdyansk or nearby. Kathy sat though each class, and gave me suggestions along the way.

The students were very attentive and asked some questions. . There is not much interchange between student and teacher in Ukraine, and they do not use the Socratic Method. . There was little discussion after class as most of the students had other classes to attend. I wish there had been a bit more interaction with the student body and the faculty

At the beginning of the course, I distributed flash drives with my law firm’s logo on them. Each flash drive contained a copy of the United States Constitution, the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, various cases, and all of the PowerPoint slides I was using for the course. Many of the students had computers with them, but all of them had access to computers at home. This seemed to work out reasonably well, and I thought it better than hard copies…

Prior to our arrival in Ukraine, Professor Kaminski asked if I would be willing to spend a few days at another university where he also holds a position, which was located in Lugansk, Ukraine. Lugansk is a city of about 500,000 located very close to the Russian border, and the capital city of the Lugansk region, a region next to Russia, with a population of 2.6 million. It was a five hours taxi ride from Berdyansk to Lugansk, and there was no air transportation. Many of the people there speak Russian instead of Ukrainian, and there is a strong Russian influence in this part of Ukraine. The university is one of three universities located in Lugansk. This university was in a law enforcement training university, sort of a military academy for police officers… It had an enrollment of about 5,000 students and perhaps half of them were in uniform. They also studied law. I gave presentations to the faculty and two classes, one to about 30 and the other about 50 students, over a two day period, I taught some criminal law to this group. . I also spent a good deal of time with the Rector of the university, who though my family may have come from the region known as Galicia, because of my family name.

There are major differences between the American common law system and the Ukrainian civil law system. Chief among the contrasts are the lack of stare decisis; the absence of a jury for both civil and criminal matters, and no pleadings, discovery or evidentiary rules… There are three court levels: trial court, court of appeals, and Supreme Court. In addition to the courts of general jurisdiction, there are “business courts” that deal exclusively with disputes between corporations and a Constitutional Court…. Judges play an investigatory role and call witnesses and interrogate them. Judges are all appointed by the national government. Aspiring judges have to practice law for several years and then take a rigorous and expensive examination. If the candidate passes the examination; he or she is appointed for a five year term. If the judge has performed well during that term, the judge is then appointed for life,

There are trial courts in most cities. The one trial court that I saw was in Berdyansk was in an office that was approximately 10′ by 10′. The judge sat behind a desk, not a bench as we know it, in street clothes, and a secretary was taking notes on a computer. There were chairs on each side of the room. I was permitted to sit in while the judge interrogated the parties in a divorce action. After the ten minute hearing, the judge asked the parties to leave and was making a decision while the parties waited. I never did find out what happened as we had to leave. It was all extremely informal, and the parties were not placed under oath. It reminded me of the old justice of the peace courts.

Each region has a court of appeals, which consists of numerous judges and is divided between a civil and a criminal branch The courts sits in panels of three judges. At one time they had the power to remand cases back to the trial court for further disposition; however, they no longer have that power. . I spent an afternoon in an appeals court in Lugansk, and the judges were very friendly, and asked me a number of questions. The most interesting thing about the process was that the panel freely asked questions of not only the lawyers, but also the clients, and essentially rendered an opinion de novo and not necessarily on the record.

The judicial system was in a state of flux, and there is some indication they may be adopting a stare decisis system in the next few years, and add a fourth layer of courts.

While in Lugansk ,I had dinner with a local ‘advocate’, Advocates are the only lawyers who can handle criminal cases, They are similar to English barristers, and are considered the trial lawyers of the system. .Only advocates can represent clients in criminal cases. , You need not be a lawyer to represent a person in a civil case, although that seldom happens. . To become an advocate the applicant need to have several years’ experience as a lawyer, and take an expensive and rigorous examination, both written and oral. By comparison with other lawyers and law professors, they are very well paid… Advocates handle both civil and criminal cases.

Ukraine is an emerging country, and holds great promise for the future.

I again want to thank Dennis for developing this interesting venture into international diplomacy. All in all, it was a very interesting experience. You can take a luxury cruise for less, but if you want a truly interesting adventure, this is your ticket.

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