Tuesday, May 11
Written by Donna Emert
MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho College of Law Professor Patrick Costello
is serving in Kosovo as a Legal Specialist for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative
May 10 through June 18.
He is in Kosovo’s capital and largest city, Prishtina, working with law faculty at University of Prishtina to improve and institutionalize their trial advocacy and clinical programs.
Costello will help implement recommendations made in 2008 by an ABA legal education assessment team, chaired by University of Idaho Law Professor Emeritus Neil Franklin. One of the issues Franklin's team found was a lack of practical skills training for law students in Prishtina.
“The purpose of the trial advocacy and clinical programs is to teach practical skills that students can use in representing clients in court,” said Costello. “Part of that is to teach ethics and professionalism, values that lawyers around the world have in common. Until law students either get out and start practicing under the supervision of an attorney, or get this training, they don’t have any way to internalize those values.”
Costello has taught trial advocacy in the College of Law for 10 years and supervises two in-house clinics: he heads the general practice/domestic violence and sexual assault clinic and co-teaches the mediation clinic with Professor Maureen Laflin.
Bridging the educational gap between legal theory and effective practice requires developing advocacy skills through role playing, and through real-life application in a clinical setting. In trial advocacy and clinical programs, law students learn the mechanics of putting together a strong argument, effectively presenting their client’s case, and learning their duties to the client – which include confidentiality, due diligence and advocacy, Costello said.
Those skills are essential to upholding the rule of law.
The goal of the ABA initiative is to bring the rule of law to where it is most needed. Through the program, American law professors and practitioners work to improve institutions and practice around the globe – including courts, law schools, legal aid programs and public defenders – to firmly establish and uniformly enforce the rule of law.
ABA Rule of Law Initiative volunteers submit their resumes and the ABA matches their qualifications to work that needs to be done. Costello’s expertise is in demand: in 2009, he worked with University of Jordan Law faculty to establish a course in legal ethics and professionalism there.
University of Prishtina has two fledgling clinical programs that Costello hopes to bolster. “One is a civil and one is a criminal defense clinic, offered on a pilot basis this past year,” Costello said. “We will be building on that experience and working to make the clinics permanent.”
Costello will co-author manuals for the clinics and set procedures into place to get the program institutionalized. Like Idaho’s clinical programs, those Costello will institute focus on providing live client services to those who often do not otherwise have access to justice.
The trial advocacy program he is working on will bring Kosovo’s practicing attorneys and judges to the university there, to teach students through role playing and other interactive techniques – including trial simulations.
The politics of the country are felt in the classroom: University of Prishtina serves both Albanian and Serb students, ethnic groups with a violent history. In a recent period of “ethnic cleansing” in 1999, the Albanian law program was forced underground for some time. Full reunification of Serb and Albanian law programs remains problematic.
“The university is serving both populations, but getting them to meet together and work together is still an issue,” said Costello. “The ABA is urging the university to integrate the groups. Since they speak different languages, that is difficult and requires a translator in the classroom. And there is still tension between the two groups.”
Encouraging the integration of Serb and Albanian students is part of Costello’s mission as well.
The ABA ROLI grew out of the organization’s earlier Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative. The new program addresses the need for the rule of law in all parts of the world where citizens suffer from political corruption and human rights abuses, and often have little say about the myriad social and environmental issues that directly impact them.
There is abundant evidence that the rule of law is weak in Kosovo.
“First and foremost the country is still being administered by the United Nations and the European Union,” Costello said. “They don’t yet have their own separate government. Basically they're building from the ground up. In general, getting students inculcated in the values of the profession is a problem.”
Part of the challenge is that the country has not offered a bar exam in three years, presenting an obvious impediment to the University of Prishtina’s 6,000 law students.
While he works out a detailed strategy to strengthen and institutionalize the clinical and trial advocacy programs at University of Prishtina, Costello remains aware of the big picture, and the ultimate goal of his visit.
“I don’t yet know what kind of access to justice poor people have there,” said Costello. “That is important to the rule of law – that there be access to justice for everyone.”