It’s tough to imagine two more contrasting places than Afghanistan and Orange County, but for now, they share at least one thing in common: Afghan Judge Abdul Saboor Hashimi is presently enrolled at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif. He recently started fall semester there as part of a program launched by the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State.
Since December, private law firms have been collaborating with the State Department to carry out the objectives of the Public-Private Partnership, which aims to rebuild the country’s judiciary by training its legal officials. This week, the Partnership announced that it got an early start on its plan to enroll Afghan lawyers and judges in American law schools when Judge Hashimi began at Whittier.
The original plan was to place Afghan prosecutors, judges, and other legal officials into LLM or visiting scholars programs at American law schools for the 2009/2010 academic year to provide them with legal training that they can then apply at home. Since Hashimi was already in the United States completing a fellowship at the Federal Judicial Center, it made sense for him to enroll early, says Temim Nusraty, the State Department’s senior rule of law adviser for Afghanistan and a leader of the Public-Private Partnership.
The law school’s dean, along with members of the partnership, scrambled to make arrangements for Hashimi to stay, and the State Department acted quickly to extend his visa, says Nusraty: “I am amazed that they were able to make this happen.” Whittier is covering all tuition costs, and Bingham McCutchen donated $25,000 to pay for Hashimi’s housing, food, and travel expenses. (Todd Gordinier, a partner in Bingham’s Orange County office, sits on the Partnership’s executive committee.)
When the Partnership was first launched, Arent Fox and the Law Offices of Donald Edgar in Santa Rosa, Calif. were the only law firm contributors, but the program now counts lawyers from firms such as Bingham, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Jones Day, and others as donors and participants.
Last June, the Partnership hosted 16 Afghan prosecutors at the University of Utah Law School for a three-week training program, and in January, it plans to hold similar training for Afghan women lawyers, judges, and defense attorneys. Private firms are funding the efforts.
The Partnership does plan to enroll additional Afghan law students into American programs next year. Nusraty says the law schools at American University, George Washington University, Washington and Lee, Chapman, Hoffstra, Stanford, Indiana University, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College have either committed to help or have shown interest.