Posted by: Nicole | September 1, 2009

First Day of School

It’s been awhile since I have posted so there is a lot that I have to talk about with regards to my summer internship.  I have decided that I will post some information about the rest of my summer periodically over the next couple of weeks.  Today was my first day back at the School of Public Policy for the semester (I started back at the law school last week).  I will be taking one class at SPP this semester (Global Economics) and then I will be taking four classes at the law school.  As some of you may know I am the Editor in Chief of the Pepperdine Policy Review (PPR) this year.  We are in the process of trying to set up a symposium, something that is common among other academic journals and something that Matt (the managing editor) and I think will help to further the goals of the PPR.  I won’t give any of the details away at the moment, since it is still in the works, but we should have some interesting speakers and I hope that you will all enjoy attending the lectures.  Tomorrow is the Internship Mixer and I am excited to talk about my summer experiences with the new students and to hear about all of the the interesting experiences that my classmates had.

Posted by: Nicole | July 9, 2009

Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda

Last week Dean Ken Starr of the Law School came to visit the students working in Uganda.  On Friday we attended the First Annual Distinguished Speaker Series that was sponsored by the judiciary of Uganda and Pepperdine University.  Dean Starr was the keynote speaker and gave a wonderful lecture on the importance of the rule of law for Uganda and the United States.

Last weekend Dean Starr invited us to travel with him to Northern Uganda to visit the internally displaced persons camps and to participate in a training on peace and reconciliation in Northern Uganda that was held by the Ugandan NGO called Peace and Reconciliation Ministries of Africa (PREMA) and sponsored by Advocates International.  After a long drive on Saturday morning, we arrived at an internally displaced person camp in Gulu, Uganda.  We had the opportunity to walk around and talk with the elders of the camp about their lives at the camp and then a chance to interact with the children living in the camp.  Of all of the children I have seen in different villages in Uganda and around Kampala, the children in this camp had by far the most health problems and poorest conditions.  Despite all of this, the children still showed tremendous excitement about our visit and were eager to show us around their home.

Me with Children at an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Gulu, Uganda

Me with Children at an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Gulu, Uganda

After leaving the camp we headed to Lira, where we went to the PREMA headquarters and received a very warm welcome that included some local dancing, singing, and music.  We had an opportunity to learn about PREMA’s mission: “Building a Culture of Peace Across Africa and Beyond,” the work they have been doing in Northern Uganda, and the plans to expand their work and facilities.  Later in the evening we attended a radio station interview where Dean Starr, my fellow students, and I discussed the work we have been doing in Uganda.

On Sunday we attended a PREMA training session. The training sessions are intended to teach local community leaders alternative dispute resolution techniques to help to solve conflicts within the community.  There are two major issues that cause conflict in Northern Uganda: land disputes and domestic relations.  The focus of the training session we attended was on peace and reconciliation with respect to domestic relations disputes.  This is a particularly large issue in Northern Uganda where women are often treated poorly and have few rights, in comparison to their counterparts in Southern Uganda.  The training session aimed at bringing awareness to the local community leaders about the domestic relations issues in Northern Uganda and then discussed techniques for the community leaders to use in order to help people solve these disputes outside of the court process.  Overall it was a very interesting weekend.

In other news, it was reported in the newspaper today that the Judiciary has requested that parliament allow for 12 new judges to be appointed.  The article suggested that this would help to reduce the backlog, although a larger number is needed because it appears that the 12 that are being asked for are to fill the two vacancies on the Supreme Court (which means the Supreme Court is currently unable to hear any constitutional cases or election petition because they do not have the constitutional required quorum of 7) and the 10 vacancies in the Court of Appeals and judges are most needed at the High Court (trial court) level.  According to the article, the current case backlog is at 95,000 cases (that is the first number I have seen actually stating how many cases are waiting to be heard).  To put that in perspective there are currently at most 340 judges and magistrates in all of Uganda (about 40 judges and between 250 and 300 magistrates), which means that each of them has to process around 280 cases this year to get rid of the backlog, assuming no new cases arise.  Hopefully additional requests for High Court judges will be made in the near future.

Posted by: Nicole | July 1, 2009

Western Uganda Part I

When I was asked to go on a trip with the Chief Justice and his staff I jumped at the opportunity to see more of Uganda. Over the course of three days I visited several towns, including Masaka, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Ntungamo, and Bushenyi, and had the opportunity to see several High Courts, Magistrate Courts, and Prisons.

Magistrates Court in Lyantonde, Uganda

Magistrates Court in Lyantonde, Uganda

The purpose of the trip was for the Chief Justice to inspect both the courts and prisons in Western Uganda and determine what resources needed to be allocated to the area. I think the most stricking thing about the trip was the lack of resources and facilities in the area. While it is clear that there is a lack of space and judges in Kampala, the problems are amplified in the smaller towns and cities. In recent years Uganda has experienced tremendous population growth and the government infrastructure is struggling to keep up. Western Uganda covers a relatively large area (that seems even larger since many of the roads are poor and therefore travel takes longer), and it has been divied into relatively large districts (like counties). These districts have one, maybe two High Court Judges to decide all of the cases in the district (which have hundreds of thousands of people) and a limited number of magistrates. This creates a huge amount of backlog for the courts. All of the judges and the magistrates that I met on the trip discussed the lack of judges and magistrates as one of the biggest problems that they faced and requested that the Chief Justice allocate more for the area. The judges and magistrates were doing very well at getting rid of as many cases as they could, but they merely do not have enough time to hear all of the cases on their own and the backlog therefore continues to grow.

There are a few reasons for the lack of judges and magistrates, but the major reason is a lack of funding. The judiciary is reliant on Parliament to allocate them with more money in the budget and enough money is just not being allocated. The Chief Justice was able to secure more money for the next fiscal year at the budget meeting that was held earlier this summer and the hope is to soon be able to appoint one more judge to the region and a few more magistrates, but since this is a nationwide problem certain areas will still be lacking judges, even with this increase in the budget.

Prisoners at Masaka Prison

Prisoners at Masaka Prison

The backlog causes substantial problems for criminal cases and the prison system. Most of the prisons in Western Uganda were designed to hold around 100 prisoners each and are currently holding over 600 prisoners each. Prison overcrowding results in prison conditions that are less than ideal (by Ugandan standards) and the government simply cannot afford to take care of the prisoners. Many prisoners have to rely on relatives to bring them the basic things that they need to live, such as clothing and blankets.

When we talked with the prisoners from the different prisons they all complained of the backlog and their inability to come in front of a judge or magistrate quickly. Out of the approximately 600 prisoners being held at each prison about 100 of the prisoners had actually been convicted of a crime. The rest of the prisoners are either waiting to be committed or on remand. If a prisoner has not been committed it means that they have been arrested, but not brought in front of a judge or magistrate and told formally what crime they are being accused of. Constitutionally they are supposed to be committed within 80 days or be release, but in actuality this often does not happen. Two female prisoners we met have been in prison for 19 months and not been committed. If a prison is on remand that means they have been committed, but they have not had a trial yet and have therefore not been convicted. There are prisoners who have been on remand for five or six years. It is important to note that those waiting to be committed and on remand have not been convicted yet and are innocent, since Uganda has a system of innocent until proven guilty. They are merely suspected of a crime and yet may spend years in prison (if they are convicted this time is often not taken off of the sentence they are given). The reason that they sit in prison waiting to be committed or on remand is because there are not enough judges and magistrates to go through the cases, the police are still investigating the crime (which takes a long time because of the lack of forensic equipment) and the system of bail is not properly set up. People are either not given bail, cannot afford bail, or do not understand bail (many people in the rural areas think they are being asked to give a bribe to the court when they are asked to pay bail. The other issue is the lack of enforcement when people released on bail flee and the relative ease in being able to disappear because there is no national identification system in Uganda.

More to come soon about my trip to Western Uganda and my thoughts about the prisons and courts that I saw there.

Posted by: Nicole | June 20, 2009

Entebbe, Uganda


Hanging out with the Rhinos at the Wildlife Sanctuary (From Left to Right: Rose, Rachel, Me, and Marie)

Hanging out with the Rhinos at the Wildlife Sanctuary (From Left to Right: Rose, Rachel, Me, and Marie)

Since my last post was more serious I thought that I would talk about some of the fun things that I have done while in Uganda.   A couple of weeks ago we went to Entebbe, which is about 45 minutes away from Kampala, for the day.  We had the opportunity to visit the wildlife sanctuary which was amazing.  We were a little worried that it was going to be like a zoo at home and not worthwhile, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  We got to see lots of different animals at a pretty close distance, including lions, chimpanzees, rhinos, warthogs, and some really huge spiders.  The highlight was definitely the Vervet Monkeys that were running around all over the sanctuary and which we were able to get really close to.

Vervet Monkey at the Wildlife Sanctuary

Vervet Monkey at the Wildlife Sanctuary

Next we went to the Botanical Gardens, which really ended up not having that many flowers in it (there were more trees), but it did allow for us to get a different view of Lake Victoria.  They also had some really pretty Bourgenvilla.

We then went to the Lido Beach Resort, where we got to see Lake Victoria and spend the afternoon at a beach.  Besides being able to swim in Lake Victoria and just lay out in the sun, lots of the locals were playing football (soccer) on the beach and a game that looked like a combination between gold and croquet that we were not able to find out the name of.  It was a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon and the water was really warm, which was a nice change from Malibu where it is freezing.

In the evening we went to another part of the shore of Lake Victoria where there was some local dancing.  It was great to get the opportunity to watch this, but we soon found out that we would not just be watching, when they decided to have us come up and dance for the audience.  It ended up being a lot of fun.  Sadly, I am unable to upload the video of this exciting event because I forgot to bring the cord that attaches my video camera to my computer.  Overall it was a great day trip and a good chance to get out of Kampala.

Posted by: Nicole | June 19, 2009

Observations About the Supreme Court of Uganda

The Supreme Court of Uganda

The Supreme Court of Uganda

Last week I was able to see several hearings that took place in the Supreme Court.  Prior to watching the cases I had read most of the case files and was caught up on what the major issues were in the cases.  In addition, on some of them I had written a memo to the Chief Justice about what the policy outcomes for ruling for a certain party would be and what I felt the Supreme Court should decide.  The Chief Justice told me that he appreciated hearing my perspective on the cases because I had brought up several issues that he had not thought about.

For confidentiality reasons I cannot post details about the individual cases, but I can give a few observations about the workings of the Supreme Court.  The current Supreme Court session is dealing with civil appeals, so the cases that we are looking at for the most part deal with contract (mostly business contracts between international corporations) or property issues (which deals a lot with human rights issues because a lot of women get their land stolen by their husband’s family when their husbands die).  For civil appeals the Supreme Court is required to have a quorum of five judges to hear cases, whereas for constitutional or election appeals they are required to have seven.

Prior to appearing before the Supreme Court, the parties have the opportunity to file written briefs.  The parties are not required to submit written briefs and if they do submit written briefs they are not required to present oral arguments.  The decision on whether to submit briefs or give oral arguments appears to be decided by agreement of the parties.  One of the most interesting things to me was that the lawyers are often not prepared.  One of the lawyers stood up in front of the Supreme Court and said that he had not turned in his brief and would like more time to finish his brief.  I was absolutely shocked by this.  I can only imagine what Justice Scalia’s (or any of the other justices) reaction would be if a lawyer showed up to the United Supreme Court and said I am sorry but I am not prepared.  Some of the justices seemed a little annoyed that they had come to court just to hear that the lawyer was not prepared, but they allowed the lawyer to have the extra time!  This example has been relatively representative of the way in which the lawyers in Uganda seem to operate.  The other students and I have been continuously surprised by the number of lawyers that are unprepared and ask for more time and those who merely just do not show up because they are not ready.  To us it appears to be a complete lack of respect for the judicial system and something that has been very difficult for us to understand.  When we have asked our respective judges about the problem they are often surprised and thought that this was a huge problem that all judicial systems face.

As a side project, some of us are doing research on the implementation of a system of sanctions for lawyers that do not come prepared and how this could be implemented in Uganda to help to mitigate the effects of this problem.  Uganda has a huge problem with backlog.  For instance, one of the cases that came before the Supreme Court has been litigated for well over ten years.  The bigger issue is with the criminal cases where people have been accused of a crime, but they are sitting in prison for four or five years before their cases are heard by any judge.  These are people who have not been convicted yet, but just suspected of a crime!  Uganda does have a system of being innocent until proven guilty and therefore they are essentially keeping people that are presumed innocent in jail until they have a chance to bring them in front of a judge.

There are many reasons for why there is such a problem with backlog.  These include the fact that Uganda has a lack of judges and magistrates, particularly in the rural areas, there is a lack of support staff, there is a lack of facilities, there is a lack of lawyers in many parts of the country (in particular public defenders for criminal cases because there is no official system of public defenders and instead they just require lawyers in private practice to serve as public defenders from time to time, like jury duty in the United States), and the fact that trials take such a long time because the parties are unprepared.  While the implementation of a system of sanctions will not mitigate all of these problems it will help to address one of the major problems, and in particular the one that the judiciary has the most control over.

Another interesting aspect of the Supreme Court is that anyone is allowed to argue in front of the Supreme Court, including the parties themselves.  I witnessed a case where the plaintiff got up and gave the oral argument himself.  This was very surprising to me since very few people have the opportunity to argue in front of the United States Supreme Court.  When I discussed this point with the Chief Justice he was surprised to hear that the average person does not argue in front of the Supreme Court in the United States.  I think it was most surprising to me because in the United States so many lawyers would jump at the chance to argue in front of the Supreme Court that by the time the case got that far the parties would have several lawyers offering to represent them and large numbers of special interest groups offering to pay for the legal services.  I must say that the person I saw argue in front of the Supreme Court here did do a very good job and was more prepared than many of the lawyers I have seen, even though he did get a little agitated when some of the justices gave him a hard time.

Sorry it took so long for me to update!  My next posts should be up relatively soon and will discuss my trip to Western Uganda with the Chief Justice and some of the fun trips I have gone on with the other students!

Posted by: Nicole | May 30, 2009

My First Week at My Internship

Me on My First Day of Work (in front of the High Court)

Me on My First Day of Work (in front of the High Court)

On Monday I began my summer internship. When we arrived at the court house in morning Justice Kiryabwire (the justice who arranged our internships) was presiding over some cases so we went to watch him and see what Ugandan Court proceedings are like. They were relatively similar to cases in the U.S. They were formal, but at the same time not as structured as ours because the judges have a little more flexibility. Things definitely work a little slower mainly because they do not have the same discovery process as we have in the United States and therefore the lawyers have to spend time looking for things to give the opposing counsel and reading documents.

During his break from the court session Justice Kiryabwire invited us all into his office to talk about our summer internships more and to let us know what judges we will be assigned to this summer.  I was lucky enough to be assigned to Chief Justice Odoki, who is the most important judge in Uganda and the 3rd most powerful person in Uganda!!!  I am very excited about this position and feel so honored to be given such an important position.

After our orientation to Uganda and the court system on Monday and Tuesday, I was finally able to meet Chief Justice Odoki on Wednesday.  I was nervous to meet him because he is such an important person in Uganda and I wanted to make a good first impression.  When I walked in he was sitting at his desk working and got up to meet me.  Chief Justice Odoki, Henry (the Registrar of the Commercial Court), and I sat down in the sitting area to talk for a little bit.  The Chief Justice was very interested to hear about the dual degree program because that is not something that they have in the Uganda.  After we had talked for a little while, the Chief Justice began to discuss the work that I would be doing this summer.  Because he was going out of town this weekend to a rule of law conference in Qatar for the next couple of days (a conference that Dean Starr of the law school is also going to), he decided to give me a book that he is currently updating to go through.  He wanted me to find the new statutes since the majority of the statutes had been revised since the last edition.  This was a good opportunity for me to get familiar with Ugandan law and how to do research in Uganda.  I have been working on that project since I was given it and will have it done by Tuesday when I will meet with the Chief Justice again.  The good news is that on Tuesday I am supposed to get to start working on the cases that are before him and researching and writing opinions for him.  I think this work will really utilize my policy background because I will be able to discuss the policy implications of the different interpretations that he can make of the law and help him to choose the interpretation that will result in the best policy outcomes for Uganda.

Posted by: Nicole | May 25, 2009

UGANDA (and a little Dubai)!!!

I have finally arrived in Uganda!!! I would like to say that I am sorry I have not posted recently, but the last few weeks have been very hectic as I prepared to leave for Uganda!

Because there are no direct flights from the United States to Uganda I had to have a layover in Dubai, which I was amazing. I flew on Emirates Air, which made the over 15 hour flight as pleasant as it could be. There were tons of movies to watch, which allowed me to catch up on some of the movies that came out during the school year that I was never able to see. In addition, because I had a twelve hour layover Emirates provided me with a free hotel room and free meals while I was here. It was wonderful to have a place to put my stuff and to shower, but I really wanted to take the opportunity to explore Dubai. I decided to go on a tour of the city done by the hotel that I was staying in so that I could see as much of Dubai as possible in the short time that I was there. Here are some of the highlights of my trip around Dubai:

First, we drove through the area of Dubai where you are able to see the skyline and some of the unusual buildings that Dubai has, such as the Emirates Towers and the Burj Dubai (which is having the finishing touches done on it now and will be the world’s tallest building). We were then able to drive past Ski Dubai, which has an indoor man-made mountain, which people can ski down.  Next, we went to the Dubai Marina, where we had the chance to walk around an amazing group of buildings that were surrounded by canals where people could park their boats.

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

Our next stop was to go onto one of Dubai’s three man-made islands in the shape of palm trees called Palm Jumeirah (they are also currently building a man-made archipelago of islands that will look like the world). There was an amazing hotel at the far end of the island, but for the most part the island housed luxury apartment buildings.

My next stop was the Burj Al Arab, which is the famous hotel that looks like a sailboat. It was amazing to finally see this building in person, although unfortunately you cannot go inside unless you have a reservation there. We also stopped at Jumeirah Beach Park, where I was able to put my feet in the ocean for a few minutes (unlike the water in Malibu it was pleasantly warm). There were tons of people at the beach even though it was late at night. My last stop was at Jumeirah Mosque, which is the large mosque in the main part of Dubai.

Overall I really enjoyed my layover in Dubai even though it was pretty hot. It was about 95° F  when I arrived at 7:30pm (I can only imagine how hot it would be in the day time). While I knew that Dubai was pretty westernized in comparison to most Middle Eastern countries, I was amazed at how many of the stores we have in the United States were in Dubai. Of course, there was McDonalds and Starbucks as was to be expected, but they also a Ford dealership, a Baskin Robbins (sadly no golden spoon), a Sketchers shoe store, and even a Coffee Bean (which does not even exist in most places in the United States).

From Dubai, I took another flight to Uganda through Addis Abba, Ethiopia (but we were not allowed to get off the plane). We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at about 2:45pm. It took us a few hours to get out of the airport because the passport checkpoint was very slow and then another student’s luggage was damaged so he had to make a claim. We then took a 30 minute drive from Entebbe to Kampala (which is where I will be staying this summer). I am glad that I do not have to drive while I am in Uganda because they have terrible drivers here. Our accommodation is conveniently located and the people that work here are all very nice and helpful. There are armed guards at every entrance (which seems a little intimidating, but most hotels and expensive stores here have them). We were all very tired so we just went and got dinner and then I spent the rest of the evening unpacking my stuff and relaxing.

Today, we walked about Kampala a bit (I will definitely be getting a lot more exercise here since it is possible to walk most places and probably safer). I was able to find internet access and it is surprisingly fast (which makes me angry when I think about how slow my internet at home can be and I will definitely be calling my internet company when I get home to tell them their service is slower than internet in a third-world country). I also purchased a Ugandan cell phone today so that I can make local calls and receive phone calls.

View from My Balcony

View from My Balcony

Tomorrow, I will be starting work. I am really excited to get to work and do what I can to help the people of Uganda!!!

*Unfortunately, I am missing a cable to be able to transfer pictures from my video camera and the memory card was not in the camera at the time so the pictures are saved directly to my video camera and therefore I will not be able to upload my most of my pictures from Dubai until I get home

Posted by: Nicole | May 7, 2009

Preparing for Africa Part II

Over the last few days my plans for the summer have really started to come together.  I booked my flight to Uganda and I sent off for my visa!  I will be leaving for two months on May 21st.  In just over two weeks I will be in Uganda and starting my internship with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uganda.  For first hand information on the Judiciary in the Republic of Uganda you can look at their website at

Next up: Vaccinations Round Two!

Posted by: Nicole | May 1, 2009

Preparing for Africa Part I

The last two weeks, since I ended my first year at the School of Public Policy, have been a whirlwind of events. First, I went to the School of Public Policy graduation and saw the second years graduate. Congratulations to the Class of 2009!!! Next, I took a week long road trip around California with my family, where I experienced 110 degree heat one day and two days later it was snowing. Anyways, more about my trip later, today I began the first of many errands that I need to do before I head off to Africa for the summer. I went to a travel clinic to begin getting my vaccinations, which means that I essentially became a human pin cushion. While I am definitely suffering from sore arms from my first four vaccinations, it was definitely worth it!!!