In this section you will find information about USAID New Justice Program’s activities, events and initiatives in response to COVID-19 pandemic. We will update it regularly adding the latest updates at the top of the page.
Helping Law Schools Transition to Remote Teaching and Learning: Since April 2020, the USAID New Justice Program (New Justice) has supported eight leading Ukrainian law schools with transitioning to remote teaching, learning, and testing through series of webinars on modern tools and approaches to distance education. New Justice engaged more than 100 law school administrators, faculty and student leaders in interactive video workshops and surveys aimed at identifying key challenges related to distance education, conducting stakeholder needs assessments, and developing action plans for a smooth transition to remote legal education. This capacity building effort will directly impact the quality of education received by the thousands of law students enrolled at these prestigious universities. It also improves the abilities of administrators and law professors to effectively respond to ongoing challenges resulting from the quarantine and prepares them for engaging in distance education into the future beyond COVID-19 restrictions.
Supporting Communities in Addressing COVID-19 Related Legal Challenges: The USAID New Justice Program continues to assist Community Justice Centers (CJCs) in Chuhuyiv (Kharkiv Oblast), Bila Tserkva (Kyiv Oblast), Tatarbunary (Odesa Oblast), Ichnya (Chernihiv Oblast), Chernihiv City, and Odesa City in meeting the justice needs of local communities. These USAID-supported CJCs provide legal information and assistance in identifying, resolving, and preventing legal problems in partnership with local governments and courts. In response to COVID-19, they not only seamlessly shifted to providing online legal consultations in the communities that they serve, but also expanded the range of services provided to include psychological and stress resistance related support. In April 2020, each CJC assisted between 120 and 180 persons in addressing legal issues related to employment, access to public services, health care, social welfare, and small business matters. They also helped communities tackle legal concerns regarding quarantine restrictions, including CJCs in Chuhuyiv, Chernihiv, and Bila Tserkva who led efforts to mediate conflicts between local business owners and government authorities concerning limitations on operations that they believed discriminated against them.
Series of Webinars to Strengthen the Judicial Response to COVID-19: From April 28 to 30, 2020, USAID’s New Justice Program supported the National School of Judges in conducting a series of webinars on the judicial response to COVID-19 together with the National Judicial College in Reno, NV. The series covered important topics related to the role of judges and court administrators in a pandemic, mediation in the time of social distancing, and mindfulness and stress-reduction in trying times. The webinars provided an opportunity for 480 judges, lawyers, and court administrators from throughout the country to learn from U.S. judicial experience in responding to COVID-19 and discuss steps taken by the Ukrainian judiciary related to the pandemic. Participants gained a better understanding of their roles in responding to COVID-19 and learned how to more effectively manage and adjudicate cases related to the pandemic. They also identified ways to conduct distance mediation and practiced techniques for building resistance to stress. This joint effort strengthened the ability of the Ukrainian judiciary to respond to ongoing challenges related to the pandemic.
Webinar on “Courts Communications During Pandemic”: On April 24, 2020, the USAID New Justice Program supported the High Council of Justice, Council of Judges and State Judicial Administration in conducting a webinar on “Courts Communications during Pandemic” for judges and court staff. The event highlighted the best international and local practices in courts internal communications as well as communications with the public and media during pandemic in order to implement them in court policies to be better prepared for future crisis situations.
Webinar “USAID New Justice Program Efforts in Developing Online Dispute Resolution in Ukraine”: On April 17, 2020, the USAID New Justice Program hosted a webinar “USAID New Justice Program Efforts in Developing Online Dispute Resolution in Ukraine”. New Justice presented the overall development and status of online dispute resolution (ODR) initiatives that are currently being implemented in Ukraine, including the creation of online platforms for settling traffic, divorce, alimony and public procurement cases. Judges and court administrators together with representatives of international donor organizations, the legal tech community, and USAID New Justice Program supported community justice centers all took part in a lively discussion on how ODR can improve access to justice and the quality of services provided by justice sector institutions. This event contributed to raising public awareness about this very timely and relevant approach to settling disputes without face-to-face contact.
Webinar “How to Mediate by Telephone – Tips from 23 Years of Experience”: On April 16, 2020, the USAID New Justice Program conducted a webinar on “How to Mediate by Telephone – Tips from 23 Years of Experience” led by Frank Laney, Mediator for the US Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Adjunct Professor at the Campbell School of Law in Raleigh, NC. Mr. Laney shared his experience and provided tips for conducting mediations by telephone, which requires different skills and different preparation from normal in person mediation. He imparted lessons learned and answered questions from more than 190 participants from 30 cities from throughout Ukraine, including judges, lawyers, mediators, law students, and representatives of USAID New Justice Program supported community justice centers.
USAID’s Capacity Building Efforts Help Justice Sector Institutions to Effectively Respond to COVID-19 Challenges: The impact of COVID-19 continues to disrupt regular functions in countries around the world, but the USAID New Justice Program’s capacity-building efforts have prepared our partners to effectively respond to the pandemic. The steps the Program has already taken toward reaching its objectives are serving them now. With their holistic approach to judiciary reform, support from the Program has ensured that its stakeholders in the judiciary are able to carry out necessary day-to-day functions. These examples include:
- Promoting judicial leadership through support to the Council of Judges (COJ), including a variety of programs on judicial leadership, administration, and management, including crisis management, that COJ Chair Judge Bohdan Monich and COJ members attended. As a result of COJ Chair’s leadership in providing the first set of recommendations for courts on how to manage operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts are positively responding to new demands and challenges.
- Supporting the State Judicial Administration in providing electronic case management functionalities in courts and other justice sector institutions, including e-filing by litigants and videoconferencing. This assistance included drafting reports and recommendations for improving current court IT systems and developing policy papers focused on the user experience, as well as targeted procurement of hardware and software to support pilot initiatives. As a result, many courts are currently able to accept and process online filings.
- Advancing the introduction of online dispute resolution (ODR) tools in Ukraine, focusing on providing greater access to justice by helping litigants resolve their disputes more quickly with greater satisfaction while ultimately reducing court workloads. Building on these efforts, the Program, together with the High Council of Justice and Kyiv District Court in Odesa City, is supporting the development of an online platform that allows the public to quickly and conveniently access legal information and prepare legal documents. The platform, which will be formally launched in September 2020, includes a “Solution Explorer” that will initially provide automated pathways necessary for resolving disputes related to traffic violations, divorce matters, and alimony payments. The system will provide users with structured legal information regarding these types of cases and guide them in preparing legal documents based on templates that can be submitted electronically to courts or other government agencies. This platform will also permit expanding to other types of cases and forms as well as the incorporation of online mechanisms for negotiations and mediation to assist parties in resolving disputes on their own without going to court.
- Assisting the National School of Judges (NSJ) in building its capacity to design, implement, and evaluate distance education programs for judges and court staff. This included conducting faculty training programs on how to teach online and providing the NSJ with hardware and software to support online programs. The NSJ has subsequently developed online courses on judicial ethics, court communications, judicial administration, and human rights and environmental protection with Program’s support. Utilizing this capacity, the NSJ is currently offering online programs at http://sdn.nsj.gov.ua/.
- Responding to the justice needs of communities by supporting the establishment of three Community Justice Centers (CJCs) in Chuhuyiv in Kharkiv region, Tatarbynary in Odesa region, and in Odesa City. These CJCs are providing legal assistance to the public and identifying, resolving, and preventing community legal issues in partnership with local governments and courts. New Justice trained CJC leadership and staff in providing in-person consultations related to local community needs. These capacity building efforts prepared partner CJCs to be able to more effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictive measures. All three CJCs seamlessly shifted to providing consultations and legal assistance by phone, social media platforms, and messaging services raising public awareness about COVID-19 related legal issues, including concerns linked to employment, housing, medical care, social benefits, and utilities matters, as well as sanctions for violating quarantine requirements. Problems facing small businesses have also been addressed, particularly connected with leases and employee relations. Building on these successful models, New Justice is currently assisting in expanding CJCs to three more localities in Bila Tserkva in Kyiv region, Ichnia in Chernihiv region, and in Chernihiv City.
- Supporting law schools around Ukraine in building their distance education capacities. This began four years ago with the innovative online course on anti-corruption that brought together law professors and students from seven Ukrainian law schools with their counterparts at the Washington & Lee School of Law in the U.S. In addition, New Justice provided speakerphones and web-cameras for the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University and the Yuriy Fedkovych National University School of Law in Chernivsti that are currently being used for online classes as all university campuses are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. In response to the quarantine, New Justice also shared recommendations on transitioning to online education with 15 partner law schools and is working on designing a series of webinars to further support efforts by law schools to shift to distance teaching, learning, and examination.