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USAID RULE OF LAW PROGRAM
USAID სამართლის უზენაესობის პროგრამა

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23 Jan 2023

Seminar on People-Centered Justice and Court-Community Engagement for Batumi City Court Staff

Enhancing the capacity of the courts in the Adjara region has been one of the USAID Rule of Law Program’s priorities following the establishment of the Rule of Law Hub in Batumi. 

On January 21, 2023, 22 court staff from Batumi City Court, including three judges, took part in a USAID Rule of Law Program seminar on People-Centered Justice (PCJ) and Court-Community Engagement.

The Community Engagement Advisor at the USAID Rule of Law Program, Dr. Tim Bunjevac, and the Community Engagement Coordinator, Mariam Gobronidze, delivered a session on court-community engagement practices from around the world and introduced the concepts and theory of PCJ.

US shadowing judge James Redwine also delivered a session about his experiences involving PCJ initiatives and court-community engagement practices during his time on the bench. The participants learned about successful examples of court outreach activities designed to increase public trust toward courts. 

Dr. Bunjevac spoke about the concept of PCJ, including the relevant theory and design approaches, and explored strategies for increasing courts’ engagement with different court communities. The session included an exploration of the differences between traditional and problem-solving courts; the five levers of Human-Centered Design in the courts; possible areas for expanding court-community engagement outside the courts; examples of court-community surveys; the roles and functions of court-community advisory boards; and opportunities for involving a range of external stakeholders to support court-community engagement.

Ms. Gobronidze showcased recent PCJ initiatives that had been introduced in Georgian courts with the assistance of the Rule of Law Program and invited the participants to consider adopting new strategies for increasing court-community engagement in the Batumi City Court (BCC).

Dr. Bunjevac and Ms. Gobronidze then assisted the court in identifying the community's specific legal needs in the Adjara region through group exercises. Afterward, an interactive discussion focused on identifying the elements of a successful Court-Community Engagement Plan. The session concluded with another group exercise requiring the court’s judges and staff to develop a draft court-community engagement plan designed to address the identified community needs and increase the court’s engagement with the local community. 

“The seminar showed me the importance of people-centered justice. Being more oriented towards society’s legal needs is a successful way for the judiciary to gain public trust and confidence. Moreover, the seminar helped us to realize that even with reduced resources you can change a lot in the existing situation and make the court more people-centered and trustworthy.” – Irma Togonidze, Judge at BCC.

“The seminar really helped me to understand issues related to court-community engagement and barriers to justice that users may face while accessing the court system. During the seminar, I especially loved the group exercises, which enabled us to think about the specific legal needs in the region and discuss the possibilities to address them effectively.” – Mariana Gakhokidze, Head of Chancellery and Reception Unit at BCC. 

The participants expressed a desire to be assisted by the Programs’s team to develop its own Court-Community Engagement Plan based on the draft that was prepared during the seminar. The Acting Chairman of BCC, Judge Jumber Bezhanidze, thanked the Program for its support and affirmed his willingness for future cooperation.

The USAID Rule of Law Program will continue to support BCC to enhance its outreach activities and assist it to develop a comprehensive court-community engagement plan with the active involvement of Batumi Rule of Law Hub Attorney Irina Khakhutaishvili. 

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