Ukrainian Prosecutors visit Prosecuting Attorney's Association of Michigan

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Five Ukrainian Prosecutors participating in the Open World program visited the Prosecuting Attorney's Association of Michigan in Lansing on November 19th. After welcoming the group to Lansing, Tom Robertson, CEO and Executive Secretary of the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, explained the services provided to the 83 prosecutor's offices in Michigan.

The Ukrainian prosecutors were most interested in certain areas of our system. They asked questions about the funding of continuing legal education for Michigan prosecutors, the goals of the organization and precedent. They also wanted to learn about the use of witnesses and evidence in trials, punishment for offenders, the adversarial process, and the coordination of legal agencies in fighting corruption and organized crime in the U.S.

After learning about the use of listservs, chat rooms, webinars and other internet resources used for continuing legal education , they were curious about "who censored the responses given to questions raised in the chat rooms? (There is no one person who censors; if an answer is patently wrong, the others will comment.) What were the most common questions asked by Prosecutors? (Admission of evidence issues and opinions about expert witnesses.) Is there anything you would like to change in the US system? (Appeals that never end.) When is the sentence imposed? (Immediately) What about capital punishment? (After all appeals are exhausted). Does victim of the crime have to agree to the bargain of case to a lesser offense? (No) May a victim appeal the plea bargained for? (No)"

American prosecutors learned that:

* Ukrainian Prosecutors supervise law enforcement.

"We have the right to issue mandatory instructions to law enforcement," answered Hryhoriy Sereda, President, National Academy of Prosecutors, Ukraine, to which one US prosecutor commented, "It must be nice," bringing a laugh from the group.

* Ukrainian Prosecutors are appointed.

"The Ukrainian system is unique, said Sereda. "The unit of prosecutors does not belong to any branch of the government. The Ukrainian Constitution defines our functions. We have two levels of work, the upper level is the General Prosecuting office, then we have 27 regional offices, 900 municipal offices, four military offices, and offices that specialize in environmental protection and other matters.

"The Prosecutor General is appointed by the President of the Ukraine with approval of the Parliament. He serves for five years and can be re-appointed. The rest of the prosecutors are appointed either directly by the Prosecutor General or by the regional prosecutors."

* "The system is vertical and the Prosecutor General holds significant power."

"The prosecutor's office of Ukraine is funded by the State. Both American and Ukrainian prosecutors agreed that they were under-funded.

"We have an association of prosecutors similar to yours. It is a voluntary organization. This year in Kyev, we had the 14th International Conference of Prosecutors. We had delegates from 150 countries."

"In Ukraine, the National Academy of Prosecutors, provides specialized education to prosecutors and law enforcement officers. It was established in 2002 by the Legislature to train those who have achieved a Bachelor degree of Law.

* There is no plea-bargaining in Ukraine.

Defendants have a right to an attorney and one is provided by the State if they are indigent.

Asked about the role of the defense attorney in the Ukraine system, the response was "On the one hand, every player in the judicial process has a role. On the other hand, the defense attorney is trying to use procedural mistakes or formalities to defend the perpetrator even though they may know this person did commit the crime."

* December first is National Day of Prosecution.

The group, accompanied by Regan Watson-Krdu, Program Coordinator, IVC Detroit, local facilitator, interpreter Irina Jesionowski and their driver, visited both Oakland and Wayne County Prosecutor's office prior to coming to Lansing. Their schedule included a visit to the Hall of Justice, where they were to meet with Judge Owens and Judge Markman. On Friday, they were to visit Wayne State Law School and University of Detroit Mercy Law School. The group returned to the Ukraine on Saturday, November 21st.

Members of the delegation were Vasyl Nykyforuk, Department Head, Ivano-Frankivsk Region Prosecutor's Office, Anatoliy Pryshko, Public Prosecutor, Office of Lviv Region, Hryhoriy Sereda, President, National Academy of Prosecutors of Ukraine, Stepan Soltys, Deputy Head, Ternopil Prosecutor's Office and Serhiy Stepanyuk, Senior Prosecutor, Prosecutor's Office in Volyn Region.

Open World is an exchange and partnership program that builds U.S.-Eurasian cooperation and mutual understanding. Eurasian leaders come to the United States to work with their American counterparts. Relationships built are continued through virtual networking and post-visit activities. The U. S. Congress created Open World in 1999.

Published: Thu, Dec 3, 2009