Denver Bar Association
December 2005
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Serbian Lawyers Gain a Global

by Mindy Marks

In July, Chris Hardaway left his job at Legal Aid, his wife at their bed and breakfast in Vermont, and journeyed into a country where he spoke a mere 20 words.

The Serbian lawyers gather around Justice Michael Bender during their Colorado Supreme Court tour.
During his six-month stay in Serbia, he filled in as a liaison with the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative. The ABA CEELI is a public service project supported by the United States Agency for International Development, designed to advance the rule of law by supporting the legal reform process in Eurasia, Central and Eastern Europe.

“I was prepared for the worst,” said Hardaway, “especially since I did not speak the language. As soon as I got off the plane, though, I loved it.”

Hardaway has been working on training for magistrates as they move the judiciary out of the executive branch and into a judicial branch of government, educating attorneys on domestic violence and helping to plan an annual meeting for magistrates.

“We help Serbians make the reforms they want to make,” said Hardaway. “We’re project managers who set things up, but it’s more about helping them than doing things
our way.”

While Hardaway experiences Serbian culture every day, he had the opportunity to bring 11 Serbian prosecutors to Colorado in September to learn about the United States legal system. As a former Denver attorney and University of Denver Sturm College of Law graduate, Hardaway was well-suited to lead the group’s travels. 

The Serbian lawyers visted the CBA offices and met with Chuck Turner, Karen Mathis,ABA president-elect, Elizabeth Weishaupl, assistant U.S. Attorney, Beth McCann, office of the Attorney General, and William Taylor, U.S. Attorney’s Office, during their trip.
While in Colorado, the group attended the Colorado Defense Attorneys Conference in Snowmass, toured the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Jeffco-Gilpin Victim-Witness Assistance Unit, the Colorado Supreme Court, and met with the governor. The group was able to compare and contrast the legal systems based on the information they acquired during their respective visits.

“In Serbia, politics have more say because of the way judges are elected,” said Branislava Vucovic, a Serbian prosecutor. “I believe we have to work on our independence.”

Serbia practices law through the Continental system, which is based on legislation.

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