After spending Sunday ensuring that all of the logistical arrangements were in place for the kickoff of the week-long mediation training, we were ready for the opening on Monday morning. This training program is the product of a Memorandum of Understanding (an agreement similar to a contract) between Pepperdine’s Law School and Uganda’s Justice, Law, and Order Sector – the umbrella organization consisting of eighteen legal institutions, including the Judiciary (and prisons, prosecution, police, department of justice, etc.). The law school’s Global Justice Program manages the MOU, and I am privileged to direct the GJP and to serve as the MOU’s project manager on the Pepperdine side.
The GJP, in turn, engages other partners to provide training for our Ugandan friends. One such important partner is Pepperdine Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. One of the many areas in which Straus has expertise is mediation training; the main mediation training program is called Mediating the Litigated Case. This industry-leading week-long course is taught all over the world, including in Uganda in early 2014.
While Ugandans — indeed most Africans — have been privately mediating disputes for centuries, the implementation of public justice systems by Western colonial powers in the 1900s injected the adversarial system into their culture. This, combined with insufficient judicial resources, resulted in crippling delays in the adjudication process, which caused huge case docket backlogs. Over the past decade or so, there has been an effort to infuse mediation back into the public consciousness in order to reduce the delays, and there is now a huge push to institutionalize alternative dispute resolution (mediation in the civil realm, and plea bargaining in the criminal realm) in the public justice system. Pepperdine has had the privilege of assisting and encouraging Uganda in this regard on both the civil and criminal side. Hence, the focus of this three-week trip – one week of mediation training, one week of plea bargaining work, and one week consisting of a plea bargaining conference and an appellate mediation conference.
Those who have spent any amount of time in Uganda know that formality and protocol are very important here. Accordingly, speeches proliferated in the opening of the mediation training program. As the project manager on the MOU, I was called upon – along with the Principal Judge, the head of the Judicial Studies Institute, and the High Court Judge leading the mediation rollout – to say a few words of welcome, background, and explanation of how the training program came to be.
I also had the privilege of introducing the two expert trainers – Selina Shultz (lead) and Mitch Goldberg. (I don’t know my butt from a hot rock on mediation training, but fortunately I know those who do).
Tuesday morning, I woke up to a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – all of which resided on my bathroom floor.
Let me explain.
When I am in Uganda, I take an ambien sleeping pill each night to ensure that (i) I adjust to the time difference, and (ii) I get a full night of sleep each night so I can pedal hard throughout the next day. That pill often alters/erases one’s memory during the time it is in effect. Well, on Monday night, I took an ambien, climbed into bed, and watched CNN as the Orlando tragedy continued to unfold.
The next morning, I woke up to something that initially stumped my inner Columbo. Now, it is not all uncommon to find cockroaches in Ugandan hotels. It is quite unusual, however, to find dead cockroaches in the middle of the floor. Thus, my utter perplexity when my flick of the bathroom light switch revealed this:
Not only was the cockroach dead, but it was squashed. I stared quizzically at it for a full minute before I had an epiphany. Circumstantial evidence pointed to only one conclusion – I must have smashed the poor b@$+ard in the dark during the night when my Coke Zero from dinner coaxed my bladder into demanding the rest of my body engage in a groggy pilgrimage to porcelain alter. What are the odds?
Anyway . . .
It has been so fun catching up with our eleven student interns here for the summer, including at a milkshake-laden dinner at a South African steak joint in the Golf Course Hotel on Tuesday night.
Wednesday and Thursday have run quite smoothly and have been filled with planning meetings for the upcoming prison project.
Between meetings, I have had the privilege of watching the expert mediation trainers at work – they are truly outstanding and the nearly fifty judicial officers are drinking deeply from the wellspring of knowledge overflowing before them.
The prison project lawyers arrive late Friday evening. Accompanying them will be my bride of exactly 26 years. Happy Anniversary, Joline! This will be the first time since we were married that we weren’t together on our special day, but I am grateful she is flying in tomorrow.