In December the Justice and Society Program (JSP) served as a consultant to the Saudi Judicial Engagement Project, administered by the Institute of International Education and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. JSP lent its unique expertise to the initiative, which provided twenty high-ranking Saudi Arabian judicial representatives, including judges and Ministry of Justice officials, with exposure to legal experts, various types of courts, and several models of judicial procedure in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. (Photo credit: Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)
One of the highlights of the two-week educational exchange program was a moderated conversation at the Aspen Institute between Honorable Sulaiman Abdullah Alqasem, an Appellate Judge in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Honorable Richard A. Levie, a retired judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court and a professional mediator. A second was a tour of the Supreme Court, which included the opportunity to observe oral arguments in a Fourth Amendment search and seizure case, followed by a private meeting with Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to discuss the role and functioning of the Court.
“This exchange is only the second of its kind, and the most extensive official engagement to date with members of the Saudi judiciary,” said JSP Director Meryl Chertoff. “I am impressed by their intense interest in the American justice system, and how willing they are to describe their own jurisprudence. While grounded in religious principles, there is much that is familiar in their system, and so a comparative dialogue is as enlightening as it is novel. The Justice and Society Program is privileged to be part of this conversation at its very beginning.”
A planned second phase of the project includes a judicial engagement conference in Saudi Arabia, to be held in 2012. This conference will enable the Saudi Arabian judicial representatives who came to the United States to engage their colleagues in a dialogue about the American and Saudi Arabian judicial systems.
The Saudi Judicial Engagement Project is funded through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). MEPI is a unique program designed to engage directly with and invest in the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). MEPI works to create vibrant partnerships with citizens to foster the development of pluralistic, participatory, and prosperous societies throughout the MENA region. MEPI partners with local, regional and international non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academic institutions, and governments. More information about MEPI can be found at www.mepi.state.gov.