Denver Bar Association
October 2006
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Judge Influences Vietnam

In December 2003, Hon. Edwin L. Felter Jr. (pictured in the middle) spent a month in Vietnam as a best practices expert and consultant. At that time, Judge Felter worked with the Government Inspectorate (equivalent to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or at the state-level, the state auditor), which had developed three proposals to create a system of due process to resolve administrative complaints. The Central Administrative Tribunal Proposal was his number one recommendation in 2003, based on his experience as chief administrative law judge of Colorado’s central panel of administrative law judges from 1983 to 1998. By the time Judge Felter returned in March 2006, the GI had reached the decision that a Central Administrative Tribunal of Vietnam should be created.

The Central Administrative Tribunal of Vietnam is a vertical, executive branch organization, analogous to combining U.S. state and federal systems. Tribunals often are used by countries with market economies, in addition to courts, because they provide fairness and impartiality along with efficiency and expertise to correct administrative actions within the executive branch. Tribunals raise the level of professionalism in the appeals process and relieve management from dealing with individual disputes so it may focus on policy and regulations. It is necessary to meet all of the terms of the Bilateral Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the United States, and it is required as a stipulation for admission to the World Trade Organization. It will improve trade and the economy of Vietnam because foreign investors can be assured of more certainty about due process when disputes arise. Thus, the overall standard of living of all Vietnamese should rise.

Judge Felter’s view of the world has changed forever. He came home with a deeper respect for the Vietnamese people, their sincere desire to improve their legal system, their integrity, work ethic, and, most important, he has many good friends in Hanoi whom he misses.

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