Over the time we spent in Haiti, we had the opportunity to learn about their judicial system. We were also privileged to sit in on some of their court cases. Additionally, we got the chance to interact with those in the court system through various meetings.
One of my most memorable court cases was a civil case court hearing that I attended at the Court of Appeals. The case lasted approximately four hours. It was rather interesting to see the attitude of the lawyers in the courthouse, and how passionately they defended each case, I remember thinking, “they really express truly strong emotions in their courts!” Subsequently my observation of more cases revealed that the lawyers were passionate in all their presentations, and were very argumentative –combative even.
Following our visits to the Court of Appeals, we attended a brief training at the Bar Association with the Secretary of the Bar.
While in Haiti we also visited the Chief of Police and we got a tour of the different departments within that unit. The chief of police work entailed protecting citizens and their assets via the use of strategic plans, and proper investigations. It was a very informative meeting as we got a brief overview of the criminal system in Haiti.A common problem found in most countries is lack of resources to combat crime. Haiti also suffers from the said problems. However, in spite of the inadequate resources, the police force is working with the available resources to combat crimes within the country.
We had the opportunity to meet with the Georges Henry, the Secretary General of the Chamber of Conciliation and Arbitration of Haiti. He gave us a brief overview of the Chamber for Arbitration and Mediation in Haiti. The Chamber of Conciliation and Arbitration has recently been established in Haiti. Presently there are 40 Arbitrators and 20 Mediators. The aim is to have more lawyers in Haiti using this newly established system. The Bar Association of Haiti helps to advertise the Mediation and Arbitration system to lawyers, and encourage them to use the system offered in Haiti. Arbitration and Mediation are beneficial because they are alternate ways to prevent cases going through the lengthy court system. Both expedite the time in which cases can be resolved. Prior to having Arbitration system in Haiti, lawyers would use the International Arbitration Chamber.
Presently mainly large firms use the Arbitration and Mediation system. It is likely that once the efficiency and the benefit of the system is disseminated to others, more lawyers will start to use the system in Haiti. Presently Arbitration is only allowed for commercial cases.The overview was quite informative and helpful, as it better allowed me to compare the American system with the Haitian system of Mediation and Arbitration.
Day 5, our last day of Probono services in Haiti. The morning heat bore through our tired bodies as we started the last day. Our first stop was at the Tribunal Court. The Tribunal Court sees small claims cases. There were no court cases in session on our arrival to the court. However, the courthouse was filled with people. We had an opportunity to see the layout of the court house. The layout was very similar to most of the courthouses we visited in Haiti. The occupants in the courthouse reminded us that taking pictures were prohibited inside the courthouse. The lessons we learnt and the way we learnt them, will remain with us for a lifetime. Regardless of where we are, the basic principles remain when one is in a courthouse.
Our last visit was to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court receives at least 200 cases per year. Of the 200 cases, 150 are seen and the remaining 50 are rolled over to the next year. The cases seen by the Supreme Court includes both civil and criminal cases. We had a brief tour of the different departments located on the campus of the Supreme Court. We were privileged to see the deliberation room of the justices. We were privileged to meet with 3 of the Justices of the Supreme Court, we engaged in a brief meeting and asked a few questions.
The above is just a fraction of an intense week of activities and meeting in Haiti. The knowledge I gleaned and the experiences I had for the entire week is phenomenal, and will last me a lifetime!