Judiciary Takes Part in International Examination of Domestic Violence Issues
By Judge Nancy Shuger, Baltimore City District Court, retired
Maryland judges and attorneys hosted a delegation of seven Argentine judges and attorneys who visited Maryland for one week in September 2012 to learn more about how domestic violence issues are handled in our state’s justice system.
The visit was part of an ongoing international exchange program between judges and attorneys in Maryland and the Argentine law reform organization Foro de Estudios Sobra la Administracion de Justicia (FORES). It was my privilege to plan and implement the fall program. During the days, we met with judges, attorneys, and public and private service providers in different jurisdictions; attended court sessions; and toured shelters and domestic violence centers. For instance, the delegation participated in seminars conducted personally by the state’s attorneys for Baltimore and Montgomery counties. In addition, the delegation observed civil protective order hearings in the District Court for Baltimore City; and we met with experts in domestic violence from the House of Ruth and the General Assembly. In the evenings, we enjoyed lively discussions at dinners hosted by the House of Ruth, Baltimore City District Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, and bar associations. For example, the Maryland State Bar Association Family and Juvenile Law Section hosted a dinner at which MSBA President John P. Kudel and Montgomery County Circuit Judge Cynthia Callahan addressed the importance of bench-bar relations. This week of intense activity was capped by a unique personal tour of the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress provided by a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin.
We endeavored to show our colleagues a range of options that they might consider to enhance the quality of treatment in domestic violence cases in Argentina. Argentines have a strong sense of family, and keeping that family structure healthy and in place is very important to them. They are interested in expediting change, but they don’t have in place the many components that it has taken us 40 years to build into our system. These include judicial education, strong bench-bar relations, public-private partnerships, and a deep level of cooperation among the three branches of government. This exchange provided an excellent opportunity to study how our respective legal systems address the problem of domestic violence that exists in both of our societies.
The delegation members were especially affected by their visits to the Family Justice Center and to the Betty Ann Krahnke Center for Domestic Violence in Rockville. The group hopes to develop similar shelters and services for victims of domestic violence, as no such network of shelters and services exists in Argentina.
FORES and judges and attorneys from Maryland have been working together to strengthen our justice systems since 2010, when a group from FORES first visited Maryland. In 2011, a delegation from Maryland traveled to Argentina. We hope to continue this important initiative into the future.
Judges and attorneys who are interested in participating in this exchange should contact me: Nancy.Shuger@mdcourts.gov.
The delegation attended a court session presided over by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Eric Johnson, then met with Judge Johnson in chambers: (first row, left to right) Dra. Claudia Alvaro, Judge, Buenos Aires; Dra. Mercedes Ballestrini, Prosecutor, Cordoba; Retired Baltimore City District Judge Nancy Shuger; Dra. Silvina Manes, Judge, Buenos Aires; (second row, left to right) Dr. Jorge Enriquez, Prosecutor, Buenos Aires; Dr. Marcelo de Jesus, Attorney and President of FORES, Buenos Aires; Montgomery County Circuit Judge Eric Judge Johnson; Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy; Dr. Luis Cevasco, Prosecutor, Buenos Aires; Dr. Gustavo Galante, Prosecutor, Buenos Aires.
The delegation members attended the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association Gala: (front row, left to right) Judge Nancy Shuger; Dra. Claudia Alvaro; Dra. Silvina Manes; Dr. Luis Cevasco; (second row, left to right) Martin Seltzer, driver; Dra. Mercedes Ballestrini; Dr. Marcelo de Jesus; Dr. Gustavo Galante; Dr. Jorge Enriquez; Gala attendee.