Four trial judges from the country of Georgia visited Cobb Superior Court the week of April 24, 2023, to observe jury trials and study the judicial process. The visit marks the post-pandemic resumption of a cooperative effort that has been ongoing since 2017 between the Georgian judiciary; the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia; and the State of Georgia’s Administrative Office of the Courts. The program was developed to promote the transparency and independence of the Georgian judiciary, assist their judiciary in court and jury trial management, and strengthen the rule of law in the country of Georgia.
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, is assisting the Georgian judiciary by conducting a series of activities to help support this effort. In Cobb, Senior Judge Jim Bodiford put together a team that includes Superior Court Judge Ann Harris and Senior State Court Judge Ben Studdard. “We are delighted to continue this important work with our Georgian colleagues,” Judge Harris said. “Strengthening the jury-trial process brings greater transparency to a judicial system and fosters the independence of the judiciary. Both are hallmarks of a free and just society.” During this latest visit, the Georgian judges observed a child molestation trial in Cobb Superior Court and had an opportunity to consult with local judges about judicial ethics and independence. “We can try to explain to folks how judges manage our court business, and in particular our jury trials, but a real-life demonstration, like a picture, is worth a thousand words,” Judge Harris said. “It’s a bit like the difference between going to law school and practicing law.” The Georgian judges also met with local judges to discuss professionalism and with Jury Administrator Wendy Portwood regarding the process of juror summonses, excusals, and deferrals. According to the Georgian delegation of judges, “the study visit held at the Cobb Courthouse is of great importance for Georgian judges. It is a unique opportunity for us to learn first-hand from our U.S. colleagues and to incorporate U.S. best judicial practices — based on centuries of knowledge and experience – into our judicial system in Georgia.”
In prior years, the team of judges from the state of Georgia has spent time in the country of Georgia, observing court proceedings, consulting with their counterparts, and providing training on various judicial and courtroom management subjects. The team plans to return to the county of Georgia early this summer. Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has made great strides in developing a criminal justice system modeled after the U.S. system. “While the U.S. criminal justice system is not perfect, we do have some 250 years of steadily working to improve the practice and procedure of jury trials in this country,” Judge Harris said. “We hope that some of our experience –good and bad –will be useful to the Georgian judiciary as they work to strengthen their jury trial process. We have all been impressed with the great progress the Georgians have made in such a short time in implementing jury trials in their country, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them.”
Source : Cobb County