IBJ is pleased to welcome Robert E. Precht to International Bridges to Justice as Project Director of the Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project, a new programming initiative of IBJ’s China Defender Program. The Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project presents an ideal framework for the integration of China’s academic institutions with the broader indigent defense system, representing a holistic, collaborative approach to justice reform in China. While the project will aim to improve legal education for China’s law students, its primary objective will be to develop program initiatives designed to effectuate practice and policy reforms, and to draft resource and training materials essential to the realization of a fair trial.Rob brings to this position both extensive criminal defense expertise and substantial development and clinical education experience. An American lawyer with over 25 years experience handling numerous criminal cases in a wide variety of courts, Rob has worked in both private practice and as a federal public defender with The Legal Aid Society Federal Defender Division, in the Southern District of New York. Notably, while at The Legal Aid Society, Rob represented the lead defendant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial in New York City. For the past year, Rob has been conducting trial advocacy seminars in Japan for lawyers, law professors, and law students. Before he opened his private practice, Rob was an Assistant Dean at the University of Michigan Law School. In addition, Rob has taught at two different United States law schools and is the author of the Defending Mohammad: Justice on Trial (Cornell University Press, 2003). Rob has also provided legal commentary for the New York Times, Washington Post, and BBC. This month he published an article on basic criminal defense trial techniques in the Japanese lawyers’ magazine Niben Froniter.
Rob will arrive in Beijing, China today, March 25, and will work with IBJ through September 30, 2008. Then, on October 1, 2008, James Park Taylor, currently Co-Director of the Juries and Democracy Program of The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana will take over full-time as IBJ’s Criminal Clinical Project Director in China. Though Jim will not be formally working with IBJ until October, he will collaborate with Rob on project planning and development, and contribute to project resource development.
Jim also brings extensive criminal defense and clinical education expertise to IBJ’s Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project. After 15 years of private practice emphasizing criminal defense, Jim worked for 10 years as the Managing Attorney of the Tribal Defenders for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. From 2005 until 2007, he was a Visiting Clinical Supervisor at the University of Montana School of Law. Jim also serves as the Chairman of the Montana Public Defender Commission, and the Co-Chair of the Guantanamo Committee
for the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. A committed and zealous advocate for the poor and disadvantaged, in 1998, Jim was awarded with the Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Besides their individual talents, Rob and Jim bring to IBJ’s Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project the resources of The University of Montana and The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center. The collaboration between IBJ and The University of Montana will have a strong synergistic effect. The University of Montana Law School has been involved in indigent defense training since 1966, and has been a leader in clinical education in the field of criminal law. Further, The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center has considerable expertise in Asia, conducting trainings and other education programs in Japan, China and Korea.
While based in Beijing, Rob’s work will extend nationwide, as the universities participating in the Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project are located all over China. Over the next few weeks, Rob will be meeting with all of our staff in China, in order to coordinate planning, activities and local program oversight. Indeed, the strong network infrastructure, communication and collaboration between IBJ’s National Defender Resource Center in Beijing and its Regional Defender Resource Centers located in northwest, southwest and southeast China will be essential to the Criminal Clinical Legal Education Project’s success.