As court systems in Africa are rapidly forming, U.S. scholars and legal professionals – including John (J.C.) Lore and Kimberlee Moran of Rutgers University–Camden – are assisting with the development of the courts by sharing their expertise with Nigerian lawyers and government leaders.
At a week-long training by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) in November, Lore, a Rutgers Law School professor, instructed Nigerian lawyers on how to prepare, present, and cross-examine expert witnesses. Moran, director of forensic science and associate teaching professor at Rutgers–Camden, presented on the science of forensics.
“It was an amazing experience for us all as we watched the legal system in Nigeria continue to move forward, so that fair and just outcomes are reached in their legal matters,” says Lore, clinical professor and director of trial advocacy at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location.
Lore, a longtime faculty member of NITA, the U.S.-based nonprofit provider of legal advocacy skills training, recommended that Moran participate in the sessions held in Nigeria’s Lagos State.
Recently, Nigeria opened its first forensic lab, so government officials were interested in learning more about tools and methods of gathering and processing evidence.
Moran presented lectures to introduce participants to the specialty of forensic science, covering topics such as handwriting analysis, ballistics, fingerprints, and pathology.
“This is an exciting time for forensic evidence in the Nigerian court system,” says Moran.
The training helps to shape Nigeria’s legal system and will influence how law is practiced throughout the nation.
“Teaching in Nigeria, I got a strong sense of how important a fair and just legal system is to the stability of the country,” says Lore. “The people we trained all recognize the need to keep learning and improving. It is an amazing group of lawyers who are dealing with challenging circumstances when it comes to resources. There are 63 lawyers supporting a population of 23 million people, and they represent the indigent in both civil and criminal matters. In contrast, the Defender Association of Philadelphia has about 240 lawyers supporting a population of 1.5 million, with a much lower poverty rate, and only handling criminal matters.”
The training session, led by Judge Ann Claire Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, also included other NITA faculty members: Judge Margo Brodie of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York; Tom Innes, an attorney with the Defender Association of Philadelphia; Judge Debra Seaton of the Illinois Supreme Court; Geraldine Sumter of the Ferguson Chambers & Sumter law firm in Charlotte, N.C.; and Judge Michael Washington of the San Diego Superior Court.
Lore has been a faculty member for NITA since 2004 and has taught as both a team leader and program director.
Moran hopes to participate in future training sessions in Nigeria.
“There was a lot of interest in extending the training to the police, prosecutors, and judges, and interest in follow-up training as the new forensic lab begins to take on cases,” says Moran.