Laughrey Travels Abroad

Judge Laughrey presses the "mute" button for Saddam Hussein's microphone in the courtroom where he was tried.
Judge Laughrey presses the "mute" button for Saddam Hussein's microphone in the courtroom where he was tried.

Last year, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts appointed District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to serve on the Judicial Conference Committee on International Judicial Relations.  One purpose of this committee is to coordinate the federal judiciary’s relationship with foreign judiciaries, agencies and organizations.  To that end, Judge Laughrey made two separate trips abroad this past spring to teach the rule of law as practiced in the United States.  Even though Judge Laughrey’s travels abroad were arranged through her committee membership, no money from the federal judiciary was used.  Her trip to Turkey in March was paid for by a Dutch organization, and the State Department financed her June trip to Iraq.


Judge Laughrey traveled to Turkey to participate in a conference organized by the Center for European Security Studies.  She delivered a keynote address at the conference that focused on separation of powers, including an explanation of the relationship between state and federal courts and the American tradition of civilian control of the military.  She also addressed the particular importance and difficulty of enforcing the rule of law when national security is implicated. 

Judge Laughrey also presented to the Turkish Justice Academy, which is Turkey’s training program for future judges and prosecutors.   She spoke on transparency and efficiency in the judiciary and gave a hands-on demonstration of CM/ECF.  In Turkey, Iraq and much of Europe, a law degree is considered an undergraduate degree, and then students immediately begin their education to become judges after engaging in a competitive process.   The education required to become a judge is similar to a post-graduate degree here in the United States and is generally a two-year course of study. 

During her five days in Turkey, Laughrey also met with the Ankara Bar Association and the ambassador, as well as speaking at several law schools in Istanbul and Ankara.  She spoke on subjects such as women and the law, women in the judiciary, and the role of federal judges in national security cases in the United States, with particular emphasis on the Guantanamo Bay cases. 


While Judge Laughrey’s travels to Iraq were for the same purpose as her trip to Turkey, her experiences in the two countries were quite different.  Judge Laughrey remained in Baghdad for the duration of her stay in Iraq and traveled under high security into some dangerous areas in order to reach her audiences.  

Baghdad consists of the Green Zone and the Red Zone.  The Green Zone is a 4.8-square-mile area in central Baghdad, and the U.S. Embassy and other government buildings are located there.  Iraqis do not live in the Green Zone unless they are required to because of high security precautions. An example of this would be the judges who tried Saddam Hussein.  The Red Zone is the area outside the Green Zone. 

During her stay in Iraq, Judge Laughrey was not allowed to leave the embassy grounds on foot, even with an escort.  When her duties took her outside the embassy, she was required to be in a convoy of six armored cars with helicopter surveillance overhead.  As long as they were within the Green Zone, she could be without personal body armor.  Once they entered the Red Zone, she was required to don a helmet and flak jacket.   

Judge Laughrey gave one of her presentations at the Baghdad Police College.   Her audience consisted of trainers and students, and she spoke on the subjects of domestic violence and trafficking in persons.  There were just a handful of female recruits in the class as training females to be police officers in Iraq is considered unusual.  It has become necessary because more and more women are becoming suicide bombers.

Judge Laughrey also addressed students and faculty at the Baghdad College of Law, as well as the Judicial Training Institute where lawyers study to become judges.  She covered the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, and there was also a discussion of the Guantanamo Bay cases as an example of why it is important to have an independent judiciary. 

Before leaving Iraq, Judge Laughrey presided over moot court with the JAG Corps at Victory Air Base.  She was then given a tour and got to see the location where Saddam Hussein was arraigned.  Ironically, the places where Saddam Hussein was arraigned and tried were located in two of his former palaces. Judge Laughrey says it was a privilege to travel and to learn information about Turkey and Iraq.  “It gives me a much more nuanced understanding of our challenges there.”


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