GAINESVILLE, Fla. — East met West this week at the University of Florida this summer, as a delegation of Russian judges toured the newly-renovated campus of the Levin College of Law.
Five federal judges from across Russia visited Florida in June to learn more about the U.S. justice system, part of a sister-city project linking Gainesville and the Russian city of Novorossiisk. The visit was also sponsored by the Open World Program at the Library of Congress, which fosters exchange of ideas between political leaders and citizens of Russia and the United States.
“The Russian judicial system is undergoing massive change, and we have a chance to influence the new system in a positive way,” said UF law alumnus Steve Kalishman (JD 82) a founder of the Gainesville/Novorossiisk Sister City Program. “The Russians have some very insightful things to say about our system as well.”
The Russian judges were given a tour of the newly-renovated Holland Hall, including the Lawton M. Chiles Legal Information Center * which, at more than 100,000 square feet, will be the largest academic law library in the South when it opens later this year. The judges also sat down with several UF law professors to discuss the differences between the Russian and American justice systems.
“There are a few striking differences,” said Yelena Smirnova, a federal judge in Russia since 1992, speaking through a translator. “In Russia, for example, if a person has been arrested on a criminal charge and is later acquitted, restitution is made to compensate them for lost income and damage to their reputation. We were a bit surprised to find that this is not the case in the United States.”
UF faculty and their guests also discussed the concept of state law in the American judicial system * a concept that has no analogue in Russia, where local governments control matters of policy, such as environmental regulation and road funding, but the criminal code is written entirely at the federal level.
“In an age of globalization, it’s more important than ever for lawyers and law professors to understand the workings of legal systems in nations around the world,” said law professor David Hudson, director of UF’s Comparative Law Program. Hudson greeted the Russian delegation on behalf of Dean Robert Jerry, who was in Warsaw, Poland, strengthening ties with supporters of UF’s exchange program in that country.
“This visit is just one small example of UF growing emphasis on interacting on a variety of levels in the international arena,” Hudson said. “Our international programs are helping make UF truly a world-class institution.”
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