Alaska inaugurates a partnership with Khabarovsk
By Judge David Mannheimber and Marla Greenstein
Judges and lawyers in Alaska have launched a pioneering Rule of Law Partnership with their counterparts in the Khabarovsk region of the Russian Far East. To inaugurate partnership activities, a delegation from Khabarovsk visited Alaska for a week in June. This delegation comprised 12 judges and lawyers, including several chief judges, a dean of the Khabarovsk law school, and a member of the provincial Duma (legislature).
The Rule of Law Partnership is designed to foster good relations between the legal communities in Alaska and Khabarovsk, to bolster legal reforms, and to encourage the growth of institutions that will strengthen democracy. It is made possible through a grant sponsored by the Foundation for Russian American Economic Cooperation (FRAEC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Based on the results of the June visit, project participants in Alaska and Khabarovsk have selected several areas of law that they wish to discuss more fully and cooperatively study.
To pursue these discussions and studies, a group of six Alaska judges and lawyers were to visit Khabarovsk in September. The group includes project co-chairs Judge David Mannheimer and Marla Greenstein, Judge Michael Thompson, Judge John Lohff, Rita Hoffman and Rich Curtner.
Another planned component of the Partnership will be the establishment of a distance-learning web site, with the help and technical assistance of the University of Alaska.
Project sponsors hope that visits like the one in June and the one scheduled for September, augmented by the exchange of ideas that will be possible through the shared web site, will plant the seeds for a long-term partnership linking the Alaska Court System and the Alaska Bar Association with their counterparts in the Khabarovsk legal community.
Khabarovsk, one of the 89 provinces in the Russian Federation, formed a sister-state relationship with Alaska in 1988. The Khabarovsk Krai (province) has a long eastern coastline on the Sea of Okhotsk. At its northernmost point, the Khabarovsk Krai is roughly at the latitude of Mt. McKinley, but the territory stretches farther south than Alaska. The scenic capital city, Khabarovsk, has a population about the same as Alaska's. Overall, the Khabarovsk Krai has twice the population of Alaska in an area roughly two-thirds the size of Alaska. This region of the Russian Far East, and particularly the northern Khabarovsk Krai city of Okhotsk, served as a staging area for early Russian explorers embarking on their voyages of discovery to North America. In particular, Vitus Bering's voyage of 1728 set out from Okhotsk.
The Khabarovsk-Alaska Rule of Law Partnership was begun with funding and staff assistance from the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium, a national organization headquartered in Vermont. The consortium currently comprises seven northeastern and mid-Atlantic states -- Vermont, Maryland, Maine, Western New York (Rochester), New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut -- who are each paired with one of seven Western Russian provinces. The partnership between Khabarovsk and Alaska expands the Rule of Law project to new territory -- the Western United States and the Russian Far East.
The Alaska legal community showed substantial support for establishing an Alaska-Russian Far East Rule of Law project after the President of the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium, Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley, and two members of the Consortium staff visited Anchorage last November. Some two dozen Alaska lawyers and judges worked on presentations for the Russians' June visit, and another three dozen Alaska lawyers and judges have expressed interest in volunteering for future efforts.
Chief Justice Dana Fabe appointed an Alaska steering committee to direct this project and to work with the legal community in Khabarovsk. However, all interested Alaska lawyers and judges will be able to participate in the Khabarovsk-Alaska Rule of Law Partnership. Anyone interested in working on this project or who wishes to volunteer for future Partnership activities should contact Brenda Aiken at the Alaska Court System at 907-264-8266; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.