McGeorge School of Law

McGeorge Uganda Summer Program Expands Students' Legal Experience

August 1, 2013

New this year, the McGeorge Uganda Law and Development Practicum summer program gave law students a great chance to apply what they learned in the classroom.

Distinguished Professor Linda Carter conceived and directed the three-week program that combines an experiential component and a classroom component. In the experiential part, the students interned with judges in the High Court. The classroom portion was a seminar on local, national, and regional levels of the justice sector. McGeorge partnered with the International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence (ILI-ACLE), which is based in Kampala, where alumna Yen Phan, '12, currently works.

The journey to Kampala was made by 11 McGeorge students who had just finished their first or second years. In the seminar portion of the program, 12 Ugandan law students participated as well. The Ugandan students were either in the third or fourth year of university study or were graduates who were enrolled in the post-graduate Law Development Centre (LDC). In order to practice law in Uganda, one must have a law degree and also complete the highly competitive LDC program, which includes considerable practical training and a final exam that serves as the equivalent of a bar exam in the U.S.

"All students, American and Ugandan, were highly engaged in the discussions and also became good friends with each other," said Carter.

The experiential component of the program consisted of internships with judges of the Kampala High Court. The High Court is divided into many different divisions, and McGeorge students interned in the Land, Civil, Criminal, Anti-Corruption, and International Crimes Divisions. Students worked with a specific judge by researching issues in pending cases or in general on issues that often arise in the Court:

  • Tony Schiavo and Bobby Walker worked in the Land Division. They both drafted a judgment in pending cases. In one of the cases they considered, there was an allegation of fraud in obtaining a title in abrogation of the rights of an occupant with an expired lease. The other case was a contest over who were the proper successors to the title to property. Schiavo and Walker also did research on comparative property tax laws by considering Uganda, Nevada, and California law.
  • Kristin Capritto and Coleman Segal worked in the Civil Division. They wrote papers and memos on employment law, including special damages and the consequences of a failure to produce discovery material as ordered by the court under both Ugandan and U.S. law, and on the rights of LGBT groups to meet and discuss health and safety issues.
  • Doug Ropel and Bruce Pence worked in the Criminal Division. They researched corroboration laws for child witnesses in Uganda, the U.S., and selected Commonwealth countries, which involved analyzing cases from Uganda, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Katie Reed, Alex Khan, and Kastle Lund worked in the Anti-Corruption Division. They conducted two research projects. The first was to research responses to media misinformation about cases, and they started with a look at countries, such as Uganda and the U.S., that have virtually no regulation of the media. They compared this to countries, such as the Netherlands, where the courts have developed a media policy that includes a "briefing justice" when there is a high profile case. The second project considered corporate criminal liability, which is very underdeveloped in Uganda. They researched Uganda, U.S., and U.K. law and developments on this issue.
  • Vince Wiraatmadja worked in the International Crimes Division. They worked on a case that involved Kenyan nationals who were turned over to Uganda on charges relating to a bombing in Kampala without following the proper extradition procedure. Their research focused on two aspects of the case. One was a comparative study of what national jurisdictions do when they have custody of individuals who were unlawfully obtained—whether they proceed with a trial or whether they dismiss the case. The other aspect was the use of a foreign court decision in a trial, with special reference to an analogous U.S. federal court case.

The second part of the program was a seminar that met for four hours each Friday. The theme was "Law and Development," and the focus was on the justice sector, with a consideration of developments on the local, national, and regional levels.

Participating students made two legal excursions as part of the program. The first was to the Parliament and the second excursion was to USAID where they learned about the SAFE Project, which is funding local justice efforts.

"The Uganda Practicum program was nothing short of outstanding," said Kristin Capritto. "Finding the right words to describe my experience there is not only difficult, but seemingly futile; there is simply no way to adequately convey how powerful and enriching our time there was. Not only was my legal education enhanced in such a way that I feel more prepared to enter the practice of law at a time when lawyers find themselves required to engage persons, laws, and governments on a global stage, but, more importantly, my heart and spirit have been, and will remain, changed forever."

Some of the students from the Practicum, including Kastle Lund, Bruce Pence, and Coleman Segal, stayed to participate in a seven-week Field Placement program in Kampala with internships at either the High Court or with an NGO.