Jim Holbrook, a clinical professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, is serving for a year in Iraq as head of a new law school project which will provide advisory and capacity-building assistance to the Government and Parliament of Iraq in constitutional and legislative development. The project seeks to help Iraqis build a more democratic and stable country following decades of dictatorship and years of war.
The law school received a $7.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of State to provide assistance to Iraq on constitutional and legislative priorities and capacities. The grant builds on a preexisting project in judicial independence. The U.S. Embassy Baghdad Political Section’s Office of Constitutional and Legislative Affairs has asked the law school to work across the spectrum of critically important legal issues facing Iraq this coming year, from constitutional revisions to a national electoral framework.
Holbrook’s title, Chief of Party, suggests the responsibility he has assumed. As a project partner with the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi Government and Parliament, he will coordinate the efforts of a team of international law experts to provide advisory and capacity-building assistance on tasks ranging from anti-corruption initiatives to constitutional revisions and legislative drafting and support. This work is being carried out under the College of Law’s Global Justice Project Iraq: Constitutional and Legislative Development.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Vincent Battle and scholar and barrister from the U.K. Andrew Allen will serve as Deputies Chief of Party. In addition, Professor Chibli Mallat, one of the world’s leading experts on Middle Eastern law who joined the Utah law faculty in 2007, will serve as senior legal adviser on the project. Other international experts will work on specific tasks undertaken by the project. They all will be working closely with April Powell-Willingham, who is the Director, Office of Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Holbrook is excited to be in Iraq. Having served in the U.S. military many years ago, he has dedicated his life and legal career to conflict resolution: “Professionally I became engaged in conflict resolution in the mid-1980s. I began teaching negotiation and mediation at the law school as an adjunct professor in 1990 and I joined the full-time faculty in 2002. In 2007 I had the opportunity to teach mediation in India on a two-week trip sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. In 2008 I helped organize and present a rule-of-law training program in Salt Lake City for 16 prosecutors from Kabul which also was supported by the State Department. Now, having the opportunity to help the Iraqis as they shape the future of their country is personally very gratifying.”
Holbrook says there were three factors that led him to accept the position of Chief of Party in Iraq.
“First, I want to serve the Obama Administration’s efforts in Iraq,” he says. “For Americans, this is a time of transformational change, and I want to be part of that.”
Second, as an educator, Holbrook emphasizes the importance of involving law students in the Global Justice Project: “Twenty students from the College’s Global Justice Think Tank will provide research and other support to the project. Some of these students already have served in Iraq, and all are committed to assisting the Iraqi people in their democratization efforts.”
“And third,” Holbrook adds, “I was ready for a new challenge. I’m excited about what Dean Hiram Chodosh has been accomplishing for global justice service and reform. I participated in his mediation teaching project in India, I helped with the Afghan prosecutor training program last summer, and I wanted to be involved in implementing his vision of the Iraq project.”
Chodosh returns the compliment, praising Holbrook’s commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, as well as his willingness to quickly immerse himself in wide-flung doctrinal areas ranging from legal drafting to constitutional and electoral law: “Jim’s commitment to peace and stability in a war-torn country, as well as his many skills and interests, will prove invaluable as he manages this challenging and exciting assignment.”
New information about the project efforts in Iraq will be posted during the year on the project’s website: www.gjpi.org.