Six Georgia trial judges traveled to Cobb Superior Court the week of August 15, 2022 to observe jury trials and study our judicial process. The visit marks the post-pandemic resumption of a cooperative effort that has been ongoing since 2017 between the Georgian justice system, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), the US Department of Justice’s Office of Foreign Prosecution Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) and the Georgia State Courts Administrative Office (AOC). The program was developed as an initiative to promote the transparency and independence of the Georgian judicial system, to assist its judicial system in the management of court and jury trials, and to strengthen the rule of law in the Republic of Georgia .
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia assists the Georgian justice system by conducting a series of activities to help support this effort. Senior Superior Court Judge Jim Bodiford has assembled 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. Strengthening the jury trial process brings greater transparency to a judicial system and promotes the independence of the judiciary. Both are hallmarks of a free and just society,” Justice Harris said.
During this latest visit, the Georgia judges not only observed several days of a murder trial in Cobb Superior Court, but also had the opportunity to consult with local judges on ethics and independence. judicial. “We can try to explain to people how we judges handle our court cases, and especially our jury trials, but a real demonstration, like a picture, is worth a thousand words,” Judge Harris said. “It’s kind of like the difference between going to law school and practicing law.” The Georgia judges also met with local prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss professionalism, as well as jury administrator Wendy Portwood regarding the process for summoning, excusing and deferring jurors. They enjoyed the hospitality of the Cobb County Bar Association at their monthly luncheon, which fittingly included a menu of barbecue, cornbread and sweet tea.
In previous years, the team of local Georgia State judges spent time in Georgia observing court proceedings, consulting with their counterparts, and providing training on a variety of court and courtroom management topics. audience. They hope to return to Georgia County later this year or early next year.
Since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has made great strides in developing a criminal justice system modeled on the American system. “Although our criminal justice system is not perfect, we have about 250 years of steady work to improve the practice and procedure of jury trials in this country. We hope that some of our experience – both good and bad – will be helpful to the Georgian judiciary as it strives to strengthen its own jury trial process. We have all been impressed by the great progress Georgians have made in such
little time to set up jury trials in their country, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them.