The Center for Judicial Studies hosted a delegation of judges and high-ranking senior officials from the Turkish Ministry of Justice at Duke Law on Oct. 18. The delegation’s stop at Duke Law was part of a weeklong program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice designed to inform the delegation about U.S. plea-bargaining practices.
Turkey has an enormous backload of cases, including terrorism cases. With the encouragement of the U.S. government, Turkish officials are considering revising their nation’s continental inquisitorial system to introduce some forms of plea bargaining. Such changes would expedite prosecutions and sentencing and, equally importantly, would provide incentives to defendants to cooperate with prosecutors to “work up” a criminal organization to prosecute the criminal leaders in exchange for lower sentences. The Turkish government also is concerned about the fairness and feasibility of plea bargaining, said John Rabiej, director of the Center for Judicial Studies.
In their meetings with the Turkish delegation, Duke Law Professors Sara Beale and Samuel Buell discussed U.S. plea bargaining practices from an academic perspective, including topics such as the history of plea bargaining, fairness concerns, and Supreme Court case law permitting plea bargaining. Duke Professor Ralf Michaels and Professor Michael Corrado from the University of North Carolina School of Law addressed plea bargaining from a comparative-law perspective, commenting on other countries’ plea bargaining systems, identifying the pros and cons of each system, and suggesting the types of systems that might work best for Turkey.
The four-hour presentation augmented the delegation’s visits to local, state, and federal public defender and prosecutors’ offices, and state and federal courts where the visitors gathered information on several key aspects of the U. S. government system, including checks and balances, federalism, and the basics of the criminal justice system.
Speaking through interpreters, the Turkish officials expressed keen interest in the professors’ views; though they often challenged the merits of a plea bargaining system, they indicated they would carefully consider the professors’ input when considering what changes, if any, Turkey should adopt. To underscore their gratitude, the officials presented gifts to the professors and a Turkish handcrafted porcelain plate with gold inlay to the Law School.
The Center for Judicial Studies plans to continue to work with the Turkish contacts and work with judiciaries of other countries on other projects to enhance the “rule of law,” said Rabiej. “This fits nicely with our mission of improving judicial systems and deepening public understanding of the courts.”
The Turkish delegation consisted of: