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THE SHADOW CURSOR: Corpus Juris Fabulae (A Body of Legal Fables)

We need a new body of imaginary law. This is because rules of logic and common sense are rarely codified or reported. But sometimes it seems that they need to be.
 
Those legal professionals who attempt to convey common-sense concepts to lazy or uncomprehending lawyers, or to distracted or overloaded judges, too often feel that they are engaging in what amounts to a sisyphean struggle up the steep, slippery, and syllogistic steps of what should be an intuitively obvious argument – the dead weight of the listener in tow.

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Attributing Blame: The Psychology of Blame and Its Use in Trial Strategy

by Jeri Kagel, M.Ed., J.D.

When something bad happens, it is human nature to want to blame something, or more often, someone. Identifying a source for blame provides closure for past wrongs, gives a sense of present control, and often eases fear of future harm. In a trial, be it civil or criminal, jurors are asked to determine blame. Twelve people who are strangers to each other, strangers to the parties, and strangers to the situation on trial must decide who or what is to blame, and the degree of blameworthiness.

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Prosecutor Jill Polster Serves on War Crimes Case at The Hague

Assistant District Attorney Jill Polster

Jill Polster

LONG VERSION: 985 words
NOTES: This article uses the first name rather than “Ms.”
Jill Polster Serves on War Crimes Case at The Hague
Assistant DA assists with prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By . . . (needs a byline because it’s written from a personal point of view: “For people like me . . .” second paragraph)
The DeKalb County District Attorney can now boast of an attorney on staff with international prosecutorial experience. Jill Polster, an assistant district attorney, recently served a three-month appointment as a Visiting Professional in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. The majority of her duties involved the prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Boasting aside, Jill’s experience at the ICC is remarkable.
For people like me, who know very little (okay, nothing) about the ICC, it is the world’s first permanent international court. Launched on July 1, 2002, and founded by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. According to the ICC website, 110 countries are presently state parties to the Rome Statute. The United States is not a state party because of sovereignty issues and its unique position as a world peacekeeper. The court would welcome the United States’ membership, and Jill states that, even short of becoming a state party, the international community would benefit if the United States could find a way to support the court while preserving its interests.
The ICC consists of four parts, termed Organs of the Court: the Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry. The Presidency and the Registry attend to judicial and non-judicial administrative matters. The Judicial Divisions consist of 18 judges organized into three divisions: Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appeals. The Office of the Prosecutor investigates and prosecutes situations that are referred by a state party, are referred by the United Nations Security Council, or are authorized by the Pre-Trial Division. Since its inception, the ICC has opened investigations into four situations: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, and the Central African Republic.
Jill primarily worked on the situation in the Central African Republic in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. The prosecution against Bemba is at the pre-trial stage of proceedings. Bemba is alleged to be responsible, as military commander of rebel forces against the legitimate government of the Central African Republic, for murder, rape, and pillaging.
Assigned to work with Dr. Petra Kneuer, the senior trial Lawyer in charge of the prosecution team, Jill and three other lawyers researched and drafted the charges against Bemba. Dr. Kneuer is German, and the three other attorneys on the drafting team were Italian, Albanian, and English. Jill was the only native English speaker, which was of great value because court documents must be submitted in both English and French. Dr. Kneuer relied on Jill to review legal documents and correspondence. One of Jill’s most vital contributions was an in-depth analysis of the theory of command liability, which holds military leaders criminally responsible for atrocities committed by soldiers. The culmination of the team’s work is the 38-page Amended Document Containing the Charges, which is akin to an indictment. Jill authored the section on mens rea for command liability and also other, smaller sections. The three-judge panel denied the charges holding Bemba individually liable, but confirmed the charges based on the theory of command liability.
Jill also participated in monitoring and summarizing the daily events and legal issues of the trial against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo concerning the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dyilo, the former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots militia, was the first person to be arrested under a warrant issued by the court. He is charged with war crimes for allegedly enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 years into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC) and using them to participate actively in hostilities. The Lubanga trial started right before Jill’s arrival, and is the first of the four situations to go to trial.
Jill recalls her first day of work at the court on Feb. 2, 2008, and her first thought was that the court is “HUGE.” Not only is the building massive, but the organization itself is much bigger than expected. In fact, the court has outgrown the building in which it is temporarily housed. Jill met a multitude of people from all parts of the globe – the Netherlands, Germany, France, Albania, Africa, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, and beyond. So it was a surprise to Jill to share an office with a civil attorney from the United States who was raised in Marietta, Georgia, and practices in Manhattan, New York.
Jill rented an apartment, which she found via the internet. For transportation, she relied on public buses, trams, and trains. She describes mastering public transit as one of the most satisfying achievements of her stay. Although Jill had to attend to mundane domesticities, made more annoying by the fact that her apartment had a washer but no dryer (remember, it was winter in a cold climate), she made the most of her time off, traveling to Amsterdam, France, Germany, London, and Belgium. Her friends and family also made the most of Jill’s time in the Netherlands, providing Jill with enough visitors from home to stave off any homesickness. Jill jokes that she deserves permanent membership privileges for the number of visitors that she took to the Anne Frank House.
Jill is proud of the work she accomplished during her months at court. She cherishes the friends she made during her time there, even now thinking of them daily. She misses the ease of Dutch public transportation. Jill says she will return to The Hague when the Bemba case goes to trial. But for now, she is glad to be back to the life she’d temporarily put on hold – and her boss, her husband, and all of us are glad to have her back.

The DeKalb County District Attorney can now boast of an attorney on staff with international prosecutorial experience. Jill Polster, an assistant district attorney, recently served a three-month appointment as a Visiting Professional in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. The majority of her duties involved the prosecution of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Boasting aside, Jill’s experience at the ICC is remarkable.

For people like me, who know very little (okay, nothing) about the ICC, it is the world’s first permanent international court. Launched on July 1, 2002, and founded by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes

Read More
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