Eight of the nine members of the Constitutional Court of Kosova visited the Law School on Nov. 12, 2010, and participated in a roundtable discussion attended by faculty members, students, and guests. Judge John R. Tunheim ('80) of the U.S. District Court arranged the judges' visit to the United States and the Law School. Faculty members leading the discussion were Professors Allan Erbsen, Jennifer Greene, Fred Morrison, and Robert Stein ('61).
After introductory remarks by Prof. Morrison, Prof. Stein spoke about his experiences as COO of the ABA during a period of heavy emphasis on rule of law initiatives. In his work on the Central Europe and Eurasian Legal Initiative (known as CEELI), he traveled widely in Central Europe, he said, and was present at a court session held in a room that had suffered less damage from Serbian bombing than many buildings in the area. "When the judges walked in, everyone broke into tears," he said. "It symbolized the return to the rule of law." Stein teaches a course in the rule of law, helding to educate the next generation on what has been happening.
Kosova's Constitutional Court largely reviews legislation and individual complaints of rights violations. Two months ago, in a very significant decision, the court ruled that the President of Kosovo could not simultaneously serve as the president of one of the political parties. As a result, the President decided to resign his official job to keep his party leadership position.
Since other courts already have heard the cases, the Constitutional Court receives the files and typically makes its decisions based on written material. It is not a trial court and so holds very few hearings. The cases they hear are often politically sensitive, the judges said, and they are sometimes accused of spending too little time on a case, attempting to display their power, or trying to humiliate public figures. Faculty suggested that more hearings might help teach the public what the judges are doing.
The judges explained some of the complexities of their work, such as the co-existence of several structures in their legal system. In one case, they might face two, three, or more sets of rules and regulations. They do their best to follow the rules of procedure, they said. With nearly three-fourths of their cases involving human rights protection issues, their efforts are important. "We are at the beginning of our work," one commented.