TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
WASHINGTON, DC, December 23, 2011 — Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy partnered with Covington & Burling recently to host 20 high-ranking Saudi Arabian judicial representatives as part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by the Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at the U.S. Department of State.
This visit is part of an ongoing project, the Saudi Judicial Engagement Project, administered by the International Institute of Education (IIE) in consultation with Institution Quraysh and the Aspen Institute's Justice and Society Program. Eighteen judges and two Ministry of Justice officials from across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia participated in dialogues and field visits on the two-week study tour of Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Wilmington and New York City.
The Saudi Arabian officials visited the Supreme Court of the United States, the Federal Judicial Center, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Delaware Court of Chancery, the U.S. Court of International Trade, the New York County District Attorney's Office, and the United States Bankruptcy Court, among others.
"This visit marks the beginning of an unprecedented level of intellectual exchange between the Saudi Shari'ah law and the American common law. Theoretical dialogues intertwined with practical observances served to further build the bridge of understanding between these two legal traditions," said Malik Dahlan, Principal and Chief Lawyer of Institution Quraysh. A Saudi lawyer and Harvard Law School graduate, Mr. Dahlan continued, "With in-depth knowledge and practice in both the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Institution Quraysh is honored to serve as a strategic advisor to the project in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and to contribute to judicial networking between East and West."
The Saudi Judicial Engagement Project recognizes the importance of a modernized judiciary in an increasingly global legal environment and seeks to complement the King Abdullah Project on the Development of the Judiciary. As part of the King's judicial reforms, Saudi Arabia has established specialized commercial courts and granted more autonomy to administrative court officials in sentencing. A major focus of the U.S. study tour was to provide the visiting judges with an introduction into how the U.S. court system adjudicates complex commercial disputes, including cases that deal with bankruptcy, intellectual property and international trade.
At Covington's Washington office, the delegation learned about the inner-workings of the American judicial system from Covington's Robert Long, Peter Trooboff and Bruce Wilson, who moderated the conversation. Mr. Long presented an overview of judicial procedure in the United States, explaining the unique role of judges and lawyers. Most intriguing to the esteemed visitors seemed to be the balance of power between Congress and the Supreme Court. Mr. Trooboff provided insight on the nation's implementation of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, stating that the treaty generally applies to exclusive choice-of-court agreements in international contracts between businesses. The delegation was also hosted at Covington's New York office for further discussions.
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 American colleagues further in this important dialogue.
This 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.
"This exchange is only the second of its kind, and the most extensive official engagement to date with members of the Saudi judiciary," said Meryl Chertoff, director of Aspen Institute's Justice and Society Program. "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."