Monday, 13 August 2012
Ukraine Law Students Pioneers For Their Country
PROVO, USA -- Imagine being the defendant in a court case but your attorney can't look at the available evidence without the prosecutor's permission and can't present evidence on your behalf. While here in the U.S. a system like that is far from reality, in Ukraine those are among the many nuances that makes its legal system so different from ours. However, dressed in suit pants, skirts and blazers and looking every bit like an American lawyer, three Ukrainian law students are forging the way for major change in their country. Kateryna Karatsiuba, Yaroslava Novosad and Marya Melnyk are nearing the end of their three-week internship with the 4th District Court in Provo, where they have witnessed everything from a jury trial to an adoption to a marriage. "Every day is full of wonderful events," Melnyk said. "The whole system works like a great mechanism, a great team. Everyone wants the best decision, and constitutional rights of people is most important. I have been impressed with the respectful behavior between the prosecution and the defense." The three women are here as part of the Leavitt Institute's internship program. Karatsiuba, Novosad and Melnyk, along with 10 other interns from Ukraine who are serving in Brigham City, Salt Lake City and Cedar City, spend three weeks working with a judge. Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis agreed to let the future lawyers observe and participate in his courtroom. "It has been a real privilege to interact with our international guests," Davis said. "It is a great opportunity to just open the door for them and help them develop an appreciation of the U.S. Constitution and liberties." All three interns went through a rigourous process to earn their spot in the internship program, including getting excellent grades, writing several essays and going through personal interviews, but they all say the process was worth it. "I did everything I could because I really wanted to be a part of this program," Melnyk said. "We had been taught about jury trials and other things but I wanted to watch everything with my own eyes and see how it is used here daily." The differences between the U.S. legal system and the one in place in Ukraine are vast. Ukraine does not have jury trials, plea bargains or public defenders, judges can't perform marriages and defense attorneys can't look at evidence without the permission of the prosecutors. Novosad said that while there may be many differences between the systems, theirs is not all bad. "Ukraine is a young country. In the U.S. it is a good program. It's not perfect but close, but it developed over a long time and has a huge long history," she said. "In Ukraine there is lots of difficulties and sometimes it disappoints us, but we can change things. Ukraine is still developing. Anything is possible." During their time in Provo the women have been able to spend a week each working with Davis, a week with the public defender's office and a week working with county prosecutors. They have seen jury trials, jury selection and several felony cases. They also have been able to tour the county jail, visit the forensic lab and do a ride-a-long with members of the sheriff's office. Davis said the interns have been amazed at some of the technology available to the court in Provo. He showed them how any case could be looked up in the computer system, pulling up the entire history of that case including hearings, plea bargains and anything else that may be relevant. It is technology that has not yet made its way to Ukraine, where bulky paper files are still the norm. All three of the students say they are like pioneers for their country, as they hope to learn as much as they can about how the U.S. legal system works, take that knowledge back to Ukraine and work to make changes once they graduate and begin their own careers. Karatsiuba said one of the main differences between the U.S. and Ukraine is the attitude of those working in the legal system. "Like how the judge talks to convicts and the attitude between defense and prosecutor," she said. "Everyone admires their work and are concerned with integrity and try to make society a better place to live." Melnyk and Novosad agreed, saying that in the U.S. everything done is for the good of humanity and focused on human rights and the rights of the ordinary people. When they return to Ukraine at the end of their internship Karatsiuba and Melnyk will be returning to school for one more year, while Novosad, who graduated this spring, is hoping to get a job working in international law. They say it will be up to them to bring the knowledge they have gained in Provo back to Ukraine in hopes of making changes as the system in Ukraine continues to grow and develop in the years to come. "If you want to change a system we need to change ourselves," Karatsiuba said. "To come home will be difficult because I have seen things I like here, but we are the first step to change something."