After 37+ years as a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice – the last eight as President Obama’s appointee as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin – in March 2017, I resigned my position and turned to the next chapter.
I believe in public service, and I believe in the rule of law, so I decided to commit time and effort to international pro bono projects that advance the rule of law, working with foreign judges, defense advocates, prosecutors, and police.
John Vaudreuil, U.W. 1979, practices in international pro bono rule of law projects with judges, prosecutors, police, and defense advocates in Asia, Africa, Central Europe, and South America.
In traveling to the far corners of the world over the past two years to help build justice system capacity – and working with our foreign partners to foster respect for the rule of law – I have come to believe strongly that you receive as much or more than what you give in pro bono work.
I’ve worked with several entities in Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, but I will focus here on work with the American Bar Association.
I began working on my first pro bono project with the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI), assisting prosecutors in Egypt. In May 2017, I traveled to Cairo for ROLI to teach a course for prosecutors focused on human trafficking and domestic violence.
Teaching in Cairo
Upon arriving in Cairo, in preparation for our course, my teaching partners and I were fortunate to meet with the head of the Egyptian Criminal Research and Training Institute (CRTI) – a remarkable training institute offering resources for the Arab world. We had several fascinating discussions on the comparative systems in Egypt and the U.S. As is usually the case, we all agreed that while some of our procedures may differ, we have much common ground in the investigative and advocacy skills needed for success, and that the rule of law must govern states and the individuals who live in them.
The course with the prosecutors was much the same. We shared a belief that human trafficking – modern day slavery – is a transnational scourge, and that we must work together to protect the victims and put the perpetrators in jail. They were engaged, open-minded, and willing to try new ideas. I was energized by their willingness to work and learn, and warmed by their friendship.
We helped to improve their skills, and made new friends for the U.S. – that’s an exceptional week for all of us. I received so much in return for my efforts. I saw a wonderful part of Egypt, engaged with our foreign partners on important subjects, and built relationships that I hope will serve both the United States and Egypt in the future.
Building on the success of that first trip, I’ve made two more trips to Cairo to assist the CRTI with strategic planning; I’ve worked with the CRTI leadership during their study tour in Washington, D.C.; and I’ve assisted them designing courses to address money laundering and cybercrimes.
With each project, we built stronger relationships for the U.S. with a key partner in the region, and have advanced their efforts to build a fair and effective justice system. This is useful and personally rewarding work.
Working in Peru and Libya
As one quick check of ROLI’s website will show, ROLI has a large footprint with great programs all over the world, including in the Western Hemisphere. I was fortunate to spend a week in June 2018 in Lima, Peru, working with judges on issues related to international drug and money laundering crimes. Once again, the rule of law was advanced during our week together. I made new friends, and during a lunch break I watched World Cup soccer with 15,000 people in Lima’s Central Square. As I said at the start, one does receive as much, or more, than you give.
Most recently, in late February I helped ROLI with a Human Rights project working with judges, prosecutors, and law professors from Libya. The workshop and meetings were held in Tunis, and we worked to develop a solid mentoring program for new judges and prosecutors in Libya, focusing on basic human rights concepts with the issue of pretrial detention in criminal cases. While the idea of “mentoring” is a tool familiar to most of us, the effective design and use of mentoring programs is new and exciting for our foreign partners.
Getting More Than You Give
A commitment to service and advancing the rule of law serves people all over the world. It is also rewarding for those who can find the time and energy to participate. You will meet remarkable people, all of them striving – often in very difficult circumstances – to make their countries better and safer, and all of them committed to advancing the rule of law.
And I can promise that you will receive as much, if not more, than you give.