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Access to Justice

Earlier this month, members of the Washington and Lee School of Law’s Access to Justice: Liberia Practicum provided a synopsis of its work during a trip to Monrovia, Liberia, with law professor Speedy Rice. Here is how the four W&L 3L students — Simon Herr, Massie Payne, Anna Katherine Moody, and David Brooks — described their work:

“Traveling and working here has been a great way to wrap up law school and has certainly been a learning experience and a challenge for all of us. It has been great to put some of our professional skills to use while helping a legal system rebuild and the rule of law develop.”

“The bulk of the Access to Justice Project involves preparing and running training sessions for various criminal justice actors here in Liberia. Liberia has been rebuilding since their devastating civil war,s and a lack of resources and corruption prevents the justice system from operating effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, prisons are overcrowded and detainees can be held for years without trial. We focus on the rights of these citizens caught in the criminal justice system and try to give all involved the educational tools to work towards making systemic justice a reality. We have already held successful workshops with the Monrovia City Police and the Liberia National Police. Over the coming days, we will work with corrections officers from the Monrovia Central Prison and city solicitors, who serve as misdemeanor prosecutors. So far the police have been receptive to our ideas and have been open and active participants in our discussions and activities. While we know that real change in Liberia is going to take years of hard work, we take comfort in the fact that we are influencing the thoughts and work practices of the individuals we come in contact with and that we doing our small part to make a difference.”

“Our class is partnered with local students from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law here in Monrovia. They participate in our classes throughout the semester courtesy of the U.S. Embassy public library videoconferencing system and help us with all trainings. It is great to have a Liberian perspective in everything we do, and it makes people even more receptive to our ideas. We have had several opportunities to socialize with our Liberian colleagues, so it has been a pleasure to develop personal and professional relationships with these young lawyers, who represent the future of the profession in Liberia.”

“The trip hasn’t been all work, however. Liberia is a beautiful country and the people are warm and welcoming. Life and culture is radically different from Lexingto,n and it has been a blast to explore Monrovia. Since he has been working in Liberia for years, Professor Rice has been able to introduce us to many different people in Liberia who do a variety of jobs. We have been able to have drinks and informal chats with people from all over the world working in many different government departments. This helps us to really understand life in Liberia and the future of its institutions. We have also found time to enjoy the beach and several great restaurants in Monrovia. The trip here has been exhausting and exhilarating, but it has certainly been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!”