2002 ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING Danube Wine Cruise ~ Prague ~ Poland FELLOWS ATTENDING:
Academy President Judge Philip K. Mautino (Barbara)
Judge Raymond Choate, (Jeanette)
Judge Virgil Emerson (Lora)
Judge Vernon G. Foster (Ines)
Judge William R. Hollingsworth (Jo)
Judge William B. Keene (Pat)
Judge Lyle Mackenzie (Mary VanderWeerd)
Judge Bonnie Lee Martin (Art)
Judge Thomas McKnew, Jr. (Janet)
Judge Thomas R. Murphy (Patricia)
Judge Tully Seymour (Janette)
Judge Robert Soares (Kathryn)
Judge John R. Stanton (Meredith)
Judge Raymond Youngquist (Alice)
Executive Secretary Diane Bowen
Honorary Member Mrs. Kathleen Stanton Buchanan
Mrs. Sharon Stanton Holgate
Mrs. Marjorie Love (Widow Judge Miron Love)
Mr. William Pelegrino (Albertina Gongora)
Ms. Colleen Stanton
Mr. Patrick Stanton
SATURDAY: The group arrived in Budapest and transferred to the Amadeus Classic. A Welcome Cocktail party and dinner was held aboard the ship and the Fellows of the Academy were given an IATJ commemorative wine bottle coaster as a memento of the Danube Wine Cruise.
The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe and the only major European river to flow west to east. The source of the river is located in the Black Forest area of Germany. From there it flows about 1,770 miles, through the countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine. The mouth of the river forms a delta on the Romanian coastline of the Black Sea, and with the aid of canals, is connected to the Main, Oder and Rhine Rivers.
SUNDAY: In the morning the group enjoyed a city tour of Budapest, known as the “Paris of the East” in the late 1800s, when Budapest was actually two cities, Buda, the old town of Obuda, and Pest. In 1873, the cities unified to form Budapest, the Hungarian culture thrived, and Budapest was a popular destination for European aristocrats. After WWI Hungary was occupied by Romanian and Czech forces, and in 1920 lost two-thirds of it’s territory. Thereafter, Hungary allied itself with Germany and following WWII was under communist political leadership. In 1989 democracy swept across Eastern Europe and capitalism came to Hungary. Budapest today is a mix of old and new, and is once again emerging as a popular tourist destination.
Sightseeing included highlights of Buda and Pest, the House of Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Heroes Square in the Pest district, and Fisherman’s Bastion and 13th century neo-Gothic St. Mathias Church in the Buda district. The afternoon was free to enjoy Budapest and in the evening the group was taken to a wine cave in the Buda hills to taste champagne, followed by a festive dinner in a local Hungarian restaurant with gypsy dancers while enjoying authentic Hungarian Goulash.
MONDAY: In the morning the group departed the Amadeus Classic for a “Danube Bend” bus tour. The first stop was Szentendre, an old village in the outskirts of Budapest founded by Serb orthodox in the Middle Ages. Seven church towers dominate the skyline, and it was a favorite destination for Hungarian shopping. The group then visited Visgrad Castle, originally built in the 4th century by the Romans and used as a royal castle in the 14th century. Members who ventured to the top of the castle were rewarded with panoramic views of the Danube River and the Amadeus Classic as it sailed past the bend. The group continued to the City of Esztergom and visited the Basilica, the largest church in Hungary. The ship met the group at the riverside and the afternoon was free to explore the town. In the evening the Amadeus Classic sailed to Bratislava, Slovakia.
Because a visit to a court in Hungary was not possible due to time constraints, Judge Stanton provided all attendees with an Introduction to Hungarian Law. Hungary is an independent, democratic constitutional state. According to the revised Constitution (10/23/1989), Hungary is a parliamentary republic, and has a civil law system. The courts directly interpret the words of the legislation enacted by Acts of Parliament, government and ministerial decrees, and decrees of local governments, which are valid only if published in the Official Gazette.
The legal system of Hungary accepts the universally recognized rules and regulations of international law, and “harmonizes” the internal laws and statutes with the obligations assumed under international law. The basic and supreme law of the Republic of Hungary is the Constitution. The government bears the obligation of submitting to Parliament the bills necessary for the enactment of the Constitution. Members (MPs) of the Hungarian Parliament (National Assembly) are elected for four- year terms by popular vote. Hungarian citizens are eligible to vote at the age of 18.
The Constitutional Court oversees the constitutionality of legal provisions. It interprets the Constitution and provides standards and supervision over the constitutionality of laws, reconciles the differences between international and domestic law, renders decisions on debates of authority, establishes the public responsibilities of the head of state and other public officials, determines the spheres of authority of municipalities and local authorities and limitations on public referendums. Any law or legal measure found unconstitutional may be annulled by the Constitutional Court.
The Constitutional Court is the only forum in Hungary whose decisions are binding on everyone. There is no domestic recourse or appeal once the rulings of the Court are published in the Official Gazette.
The Constitution provides for a Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) for Civil Rights, for the protection of national and minority rights and to investigate any abuse of constitutional rights and to initiate measures for redress. “In cases defined by law, anyone may propose that the Ombudsman take action.”
In Hungary there is a three-tier judicial system consisting of the Supreme Court, the Court of the Capital City and the county (municipal) courts and local (municipal districts) courts. The areas of jurisdiction are criminal, civil and administrative law. “Administrative judgments prevail within the framework of normal courts, which according to existing regulations must review the legality of administrative actions. Their jurisdiction is related to the application of the law; that is, judges do not make the law. The Supreme Court sets guidelines based on principles for the judicial work of every court. The directives and decisions in questions of principle of the Supreme Court are binding on all courts of the country.”
The President of the Republic elects the President of the Supreme Court, after nomination by Parliament. Professional judges are appointed by the President of the Republic. The legal profession is usually organized as sole practitioners and small firms, and there are many international law firms in the country.
TUESDAY: In the morning the Amadeus Classic docked in Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, and sightseeing included the historic town centre with many baroque buildings, the old city hall and the gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral where Hungarian monarchs were crowned. The group returned to the ship for lunch and the afternoon was free aboard ship to enjoy the scenery along the Danube as the Amadeus Classic sailed to Vienna. The ship docked in Vienna at 7:00 p.m. and members of the group attended a “Vienna by Night” tour including a Strauss and Mozart “Konzert” by the Wiener Hapsburg “Orchester” at the Hapsburg Palace complex.
WEDNESDAY: The Amadeus Classic remained docked in Vienna and a morning city tour was available of the city, including the Hapsburg Palace Complex. Vienna was once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian empire, but was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in WWI. Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany in 1938 and occupied by Allied powers after WWII. Austria’s 1955 State Treaty declared the country “permanently neutral” as a condition of the Soviet military withdrawal. Austria joined the EU in 1995 and was the first country where the group experienced the EURO currency. The afternoon was free for tours of the city via a shuttle bus from the ship and in the evening the group enjoyed a wine tasting in the Vienna suburb of Grinzing, known for its wine.
In Austria there are four levels in the court system. The lowest courts are District Courts, which handle criminal matters involving sentences of up to one year, civil matters involving approximately €10,000, and family law and landlord/tenant disputes (regardless of value). The second court is an Intermediate Court which handles high penalty criminal cases, higher value civil cases, appellate review of District Court Judgments, and commercial (labour/social law) cases. The third level is the Court of Appeal and the highest level is the Supreme Court.
In the District Courts one judge tries the case. In the Intermediate Courts a criminal case is tried by one judge when the penalty is up to five years imprisonment; if it is more, a panel of two judges and two lay judges will try the case and decide it together. This is called a Schösffengericht. In the Appeal Court, three judges hear the case; in the Supreme Court five judges hear the case.
THURSDAY: In the morning the Amadeus Classic docked in Dürnstein, a quaint, medieval town in the Wachau Valley. Guided walks were conducted through the village. Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in Kuenringer Castle (which still stands high on the mountainside above Dürnstein) in 1192 because he insulted the local king, Duke Leopold VI, when he passed through Dürnstein on his way back from the Crusades. Dürnstein is known for it’s blue baroque church, called Stiftskirche, and narrow cobblestone streets, and is surrounded by vineyards. Members of the group were free to taste wine in a local winery and shop for locally handcrafted items which are made over the winter months. As the Amadeus Classic left Dürnstein for Melk, workers could be seen harvesting grapes as the ship sailed through Austria’s famed wine region of the Wachau Valley.
In the afternoon the Amadeus Classic docked in Melk. Approximately a month before the Academy trip, this region of Europe suffered severe flooding. In many towns along the Danube River flood water markings were observed on walls and in fields. At the Konditorei (coffee shop) at the ship’s dock were highwater (hochwasser) marks for past floods. August of 1501 was the most severe and the highest. The high water mark for 2002 was already posted and was in the median range, even though the many locks along the river are supposed to control the water level. The Melk Abbey, crowned by towers of golden ochre, is one of the most imposing architectural masterpieces in the region and a focal point in the formative years of Austria’s history. Early documents refer to Melk in the year 831 which is probably when a castle was built on the cliff top site of the abbey. In 1089 Babenberg Margrave Leopold II of Austria gave the church and castle to the Benedictine monks. The abbey library houses the copy of the Benedictine Rule which the monks brought with them from their original monastery. The monastery was destroyed by fire in 1297 and rebuilt over three years in the early 1700s, including frescos in the library and marble hall. From its earliest days the Melk Abbey’s most important function has been pastoral duties and education, which it continues today with 27 parishes and approximately 660 pupils.
FRIDAY: The Amadeus Classic docked in Passau for the last night aboard ship. Passau is located at the junction of three rivers, The Ilz (black waters), the Danube (brown waters) and the Inn (green waters). The group enjoyed shopping, visiting St. Steven’s Church with “the world’s largest church organ,” and visiting the open market in the town square. The 2002 Business Meeting was held in the afternoon:
The annual business meeting was held aboard the Amadeus Classic, commencing at 4:00 p.m. with all Fellows in attendance. President Philip K. Mautino thanked everyone for coming and hoped they were enjoying the trip.
The minutes of the Mississippi to New Orleans trip, October 29 to November 8, 2001, were approved as written by motion of Judge Seymour, second by Judge Martin, unanimously passed. The Treasurer’s Report submitted by Treasurer Judge Keene with a balance on hand of $3,600.83 as of September 19, 2002, was approved as submitted.
For new members attending the meeting, Judge Keene explained that members are considered delinquent if they do not pay the current year’s dues. If they fail to pay their dues the following year, it has been the practice of the Academy to drop them from the membership roll. After discussion it was moved by Judge Martin that the delinquent members should be notified that they are delinquent and failure to pay their dues [by a specified time] will result in being dropped from the rolls of the Academy; second by Judge Hollingsworth. President Mautino will write to the delinquent members and also try to pique their interest with details of next year’s trip. The Academy will continue to recruit new members and it is recommended after an invitation letter is sent out that the nominator follow-up with personal contact to encourage the nominee to join.
Judge Keene explained the origin of the Scholarship Fund, and then the members considered the amount of money the Academy would like to donate to the Jagiellonian University at it’s upcoming visit. After discussion, Judge Stanton made a motion for President Mautino to donate an amount not to exceed $1,500 to the Jagiellonian University, second by Judge Hollingsworth, unanimously passed.
Judge Keene, Chair of the Nominating Committee, which is made up of past presidents of the Academy attending the annual business meeting, stated that President Mautino has done an excellent job and brought a new vitality to the organization by getting more members to attend the trip this year. Judge Mautino has indicated he would be willing to serve another year as President, and, therefore, the nominating committee put forth the following slate of officers for consideration: Judge Philip K. Mautino, President; Judge Thomas McKnew, Jr., Vice-President; Judge William B. Keene, Secretary-Treasurer; Judge Thomas R. Murphy, Chancellor. The nominations were moved closed by Judge Soares; seconded by Judge Foster and unanimously approved.
The 2003 meeting was discussed. Suggestions included China, Italy, a Baltic Cruise including Russia, Norway and the Fjords, the Amazon. President Mautino will begin working on the trip and will send the destination and date information out with the minutes shortly after the first of the year. A trip proposal will be put together by the end of March. There was no further business and the meeting was adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
Immediately after the meeting a private cocktail party was held for the Academy, prior to the Farewell Dinner aboard the Amadeus Classic.
SATURDAY: In the morning the group disembarked the Amadeus Classic in Passau and proceeded by motorcoach to Prague. Lunch was in Pilsen at the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, founded in 1842. A tour of the brewery and the bedrock brewing cellars, which still contain antique oak vats and casks used during traditional brewing methods for fermentation and maturation, was enjoyed by the Academy members.
In the afternoon the group was met by their Polish tour guide, Bogdan Ochman, and checked into the Diplomat Hotel and enjoyed dinner and Czech folk dancers and singers at the Pelikan Restaurant in downtown Prague. At the restaurant the group was met by JUDr. Jaroslava (Jarka) Vítová, a civil judge (soudkyně) in the Court of Appeal in Praha and JUDr. Vladana Woratschová, a criminal judge at the Praha Court. She is also the Supervisory Board Chair of the American Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative of the CEELI Institute.
After WWII the political system in Czechoslovakia and central and eastern Europe was Soviet-style communist and for 40 years it ruled all layers of social and political life. In 1993 the new Constitution of the Czech Republic established a “sovereign, unitary and democratic, law-abiding State.” The Constitution provides for four levels of courts: district, regional, two High Courts at Prague and Olomouc, and the Supreme Court. Military courts were abolished in 1994 and their jurisdiction over criminal matters was shifted to regular courts.
After dinner Vladana and Jarka returned to the Diplomat Hotel with the Academy members and the judges engaged in further discussions of the legal systems of both the Czech Republic and the United States. “In the Czech Republic being a judge is hard work, recognition is not high like in the U.S., but they are trying to make changes, especially in working conditions, which are completely different. Judges here run their courts with basically no staff. Judges question the witnesses or attorneys and then dictate what the record is going to be. Because of the communist control over Europe, the Prague civil courts have many property cases where it must be determined who owned the property prior to the state, during the communist regime. Some restitution issues have to be addressed and legislation has been passed to define the measures to determine who former owners may have been, and if the state took the property illegally.”
Seventy percent of the civil judges are women, the salary of a judge was approximately $100 monthly during communism and is now approximately 58,000 Kć or $1,100 a month. Lawyers earn more than judges. To be a judge after law school you must serve three years in the court being trained by a sitting judge; then pass a three-day examination given by the Office of the Minister of Justice; and thereafter will be appointed to a specific court by the Minister of Justice for a life term. Under communism judges were appointed for 10-year terms. There are over 2,500 judges in the country and many new judges have entered the profession, so that the majority of judges are relatively young since many judges left office in the early 1990s after the communist period.
JUDr. Jaroslava (Jarka) Vítová, and JUDr. Vladana Woratschová were presented with Academy wine coasters. At a later date it was decided to offer Vladana and Jarka Honorary Membership in the Academy. JUDr. Vladana Woratschová sits in the Praha 8 District Criminal Court, and invited the group to visit her court on Monday morning.
SUNDAY: The following day the Academy group toured Prague Castle, once the home of Bohemian royalty, and then enjoyed a walking tour through the ancient quarter of Hradcany to the 14th Century Charles Bridge. In the Old Town Square the group disbursed for lunch in sidewalk cafes, shopped for Bohemian Crystal, and walked to the former city hall (Radnice) with its famous astronomical clock (orloj). Undamaged in WWII, Prague’s centuries of architecture, starting with the medieval period, gothic and baroque spires, and art-nouveau facades remain intact. In the afternoon the group took a bus ride out of Prague into the countryside for a tour of Karlstejn Castle, a 14th century castle built by Charles IV in 1348 as a storehouse for the crown jewels.
MONDAY: In the morning the group met JUDr. Vladana Woratschová at the District Court in Prague (Městský soud v Praze) and also met with JUDr. Tomáš Vejnar, the Vice-President (místopředseda soudu) of the civil courts. The court building houses district courts (courts of first instance) for civil and criminal cases, and courts of appeal. In criminal cases if the punishment is under ten years in jail one professional judge and two lay judges will hear the case. The death penalty was abolished in the Czech Republic in 1991, and is not allowed in EU counties. A life sentence is up to 20 years. In Court of Appeal matters three professional judges are on each case. In a civil appeal no new evidence is taken, it is just a review of the evidence in the first district court. In a criminal appeal new evidence can come in. Civil cases do not “punish” (punitive), but only award damages.
The Academy was taken into a courtroom to observe proceedings in progress in front of JUDr Hlavní Ilčeni, Saŝi Petkovič (criminal court judge) in Prague A District Court, and two lay judges. The Academy members filed into the small courtroom and after observing what seemed to be the lawyers and the court conferring, it was explained that the court was waiting for one of the lay judges to arrive. Judge Woratschová explained evidence in criminal cases is collected by the police and supervised by state prosecutors. “It is not easy to work with the police because some are not that well trained, they are young with no education.” The defendant on trial was arrested with three kilos of ephedrine. He started in Belgrade through Slovakia into Praha with a bag of cheese and the ephedrine was in the cheese. There is no direct evidence, all the evidence was collected by telephone monitoring. The punishment if convicted will be 10 to 15 years. Judge Petkovič explained the defendant is from Yugoslavia and a witness, who had traveled from Yugoslavia, was scheduled to testify that day on the defendant’s behalf. She explained, “It is extremely difficult to postpone the trial.” The court pays for travel and hotel expenses for witnesses. The judge decided to go forward and take the witness’s testimony and the lay judge would have to read the evidence. “This is the last witness. There will be final statements from the prosecutor and the defense and then if they convict the defendant, they will review whether there are reasons for custody every three years.” While the witness was testifying, the judge dictated the record and a secretary typed what the judge dictated. The witness stood before the judge and told his story in a narrative fashion. Judge Woratschová told the group after the court session that the witness was the driver of a bus and said that some men came and gave him this bag of cheese and alcohol to give to his brother’s relatives in Prague. Since the lay judge never showed up, she explained that the evidence will be read to the lay judge by the professional judge. By January 2004 all the courts will be equipped with electronic recording equipment. The professional judge will write the decision.
At a later time, it was decided to invite JUDr. Jaroslava (Jarka) Vítová, and JUDr. Vladana Woratschová to become honorary members in the Academy. After the court visit the group walked to the town center of Prague for lunch and a free afternoon.
In the evening, the group gathered together in the CD Restaurant in the Diplomat Hotel for a Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner to say goodbye to those leaving the tour (11 members and guests). President Mautino and Barbara were presented with a Bohemian Crystal Globe to commemorate the trip and thank them for all their work putting together the trip this year.
TUESDAY: The Academy group continuing to Poland left Prague and on the way to Krakow visited the Constitutional Court in Brno, Czech Republic. The group met with Anna Mácová, in International Relations, at the Constitutional Court. It was not possible to meet the judges of the court because they were involved in a “non-public plenum that is composed of all Justices.” The group was shown the Assembly Hall where the justices hear matters. Each member was given a book entitled, The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic [Ústavní Soud České Republicky].
There was first a constitutional judiciary as early as 1921. This court was created for a period of ten years and its first period elapsed in 1931. It was re-established in 1938 and did not function during WWII. “1948 to 1969 was a period of time when the constitutional system did not envisage the existence of a similar body. However, a different background was created after the federalization of Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the Constitutional Act of the Czechoslovak Federation anticipated not only the establishment of a Federal Constitutional Court, but also of similar courts on the level of both republics. However, none of these courts ever actually came into existence, thus the constitutional judiciary only existed on paper,” until the present Constitutional Court was established and began its activities in July, 1993.
The Constitutional Court “represents an absolutely independent body . . . entrusted the duty of protecting constitutionality.” The President of the Czech Republic appoints the justices and the Senate approves the appointments. There are 15 justices appointed for a period of 10 years. A justice may be re-appointed and there is no age limit. The Court’s caseload consists of constitutional complaints, as well as interventions by public authorities affecting constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties. The Court also functions as an electoral court and is authorized to decide “legal remedies against decisions related to the election of a deputy or a Senator, in cases of doubt concerning loss of eligibility or the incompatibility of other positions with their holding office.” The Court is also the “sole and final competent authority entitled to try impeachments and to judge whether the President of the Republic has committed high treason.” And, the Court “decides what measures are necessary for the implementation of decisions of an international tribunal that are binding on the Czech Republic.”
After the meeting the group had lunch and a short city tour of Brno, and then drove to the Sofitel Hotel, Krakow, Poland, and enjoyed dinner in the hotel at the Zygmuntowska Restaurant.
WEDNESDAY: In the morning the group visited the Jagiellonian University. The Jagiellonian University was founded in the 15th century. Pope John Paul II attended the University from 1938-1939 and 1942-1946.
The original meeting had been set with Dr. Halina Niec, the co-founder of the Human Rights Center and Legal Clinic (Klinika Porad Prawnych), but shortly before the Academy’s visit she passed away. Her assistant, Kasia Zdybska, met the Academy group at the Collegium Novum with Professor Michal Kowalski, and students Piòc Szwedo, Bowtomíý Tokarz, Mona Pamuta, Courtney Schusheim, Anna Goaszsewsla. Dorota Gozdecka, Dominika Legan and Paulina Korbińska. Bowtomíý is about to graduate and is a senior staff member at the Klinika and Kasia is the coordinator. Paulina has just been promoted to the staff as a fundraiser for the Klinika.
The Legal Clinic began in 1997 providing legal assistance to indigent people in the Krakow region through the work of the law students. It was established with grants from the Ford Foundation, the United States Democracy Commission and the Krakow Voivod. Organizational assistance was provided by the U.S. Peace Corps, the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow, the American Bar Association Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI). Based on the success of the Clinic, two additional clinical programs were established at other Polish Law Schools. The inspiration to initiate the program resulted from the belief that Polish university professors and administrators relied too heavily on theoretical teaching and that a gap existed between citizens’ need for and access to the law. The Clinic consists of three sections, civil, criminal and human rights law. Each section is headed by a law faculty member with a team of students working under their supervision. There are 18 positions available for which students receive university credit, but a total of 26 senior-level students participate in the program, 8 working as volunteers. After a competitive application process in which students apply to a section of their choice, clinicians choose the top 6 candidates from more than 100 applicants, based on academic performance and work and volunteer experience. Student’s work is reviewed at weekly seminars with their sections in which they discuss their cases and share strategies and ideas with the group. During these sessions students receive training in lawyering skills and ethics by their faculty supervisors.
The Clinic provides cost-free legal aid and counseling to asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants. Many are from the Eastern frontier of Poland, Eastern Europe, Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Sudan, people of Polish descent seeking repatriation, and victims of human rights violations. The law students, having completed a year-long course of human rights and refugee law, and under the supervision of professors, teaching assistants and a practicing attorney, assist clients in procedures before Polish administrative organizations; participate in official interviews; ensure that clients are aware of their legal rights and obligations; prepare and submit appeals against negative decisions; help clients formulate and lodge applications to the Polish High Administrative Court and European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; assist recognized refugees in implementing their integration programs; compose legal opinions and letters of request; and conduct open office hours for walk-in clients. Students participating in the program are required to make monthly visits to the refugee center in Lublin, Poland to speak with their clients and take on new cases.
Thereafter, the students and the judges enjoyed an informal exchange of ideas and information, and the students told about some of the cases they have handled. President Mautino presented Academy wine coasters to Professor Kowalski, Kasia, Paulina and Bowtomíý, and also presented the Clinic with a donation of $1,000 to be used for educational purposes by the University.
After the meeting, the group walked to Rynek Główny (The Market Square), a 13th century part of the city which has survived unaltered to the present day. The Sukiennice (The Warehouse) in the middle of Rynek Główny was originally built in 1358 as a center for the sale of cloth and now is full of stalls and shops selling local crafts, gifts and souveniers,while local artists display their works in the square. The Academy group was free for lunch and shopping and then met again to tour St. Mary’s Church, for centuries the most important church in the city. The group then walked to Wawel Hill and enjoyed views of Cracow. The Hill has always been a dominant element in the city. The first castle was believed to have been built between the 10th and 11th centuries and building continued through the centuries. On Wawel Hill there is the castle, the Courtyard, the Royal Apartments, and the Clock Tower. The Cathedral of Wawel was built in 1020 and over the centuries has been enlarged, new chapels have been added and the building has been made higher.
In the evening, some members of the group enjoyed a visit to what has been referred to as “no less magnificent than an Egyptian pyramid,” the Wielczka Salt Mine, a subterranean cavern of passages, underground lakes and chapels with sculptures carved from the crystalline salt. The Wielczka Mine has been mined for 900 years. It used to be one of the world’s biggest and most profitable salt mine and financed Polish explorations in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Academy group enjoyed a privately conducted evening tour starting 64 meters deep and walking to a level of 135 meters where they viewed a mining museum and centuries-old equipment. The group was fortunate enough to encounter miners working in the mine and they gave each of the ladies a rock of salt from the mine.
THURSDAY: In the morning the group departed for Warsaw, and en route visited Auschwitz (Oswiecim) for a private tour of the Nazi death camp. Between 1941 and 1945 about one million men, women and children perished in the three Auschwitz concentration camps, Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz. At its peak the complex was a deadly prison to over 150,000 inmates that were being either murdered outright, starved or worked to death. The Museum was created in 1947 at the site of the camps, and receives 500,000 visitors yearly; over 5 million people have visited.
Next the group stopped at Czestochowa to visit the Yasna Goro Monastery, famous for it’s blackened picture of St. Mary, referred to as the “Black Madonna.” The group continued to Warsaw and checked into the Jan III Sobieski Hotel. Warsaw was severely damaged by bombing during WWII and has been completely restored to its former likeness. Houses and buildings which were not bombed during the war were burned by the Germans after their fall.
FRIDAY: In the morning the Academy group went to the Supreme Court Building (Budynek Sądu Najwyższego) in Krasiński Square (Przy Placu Krasińskich), which was recently opened in 1999. The design of the building “is to illustrate the role of the law in the life of man” and the court is surrounded with a chain of “Law Pillars,” inscribed with quotations from Roman legal codices and old Polish laws. The building is almost 40,000 square meters and houses the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court and the National Record Institute. The Supreme Court has nine courtrooms, which are used for the daily work of the court and a large courtroom for high publicity cases which attract special public attention. This courtroom is used when the Administrative, Labour and Social Insurance Chamber decides upon the validity of presidential or parliamentary elections. The small courtrooms are lit by natural daylight which flows in through a glass ceiling. Behind the chairs of the justices hangs the national emblem of Poland, a crowned eagle.
The Academy group met with Professor Dr. Lech Gardocki, First President of the Supreme Court of Warsaw, Professor Tadeusz Ereciński, President of the Supreme Court, Civil Chamber, Krzysztof Śledziewski, Head of the Organizing Section of the Supreme Court, Teresa Flemming-Kulesza, Head of the Administrative, Labour, and Social Insurance Chamber, and Stanisław Zabłocki, Chairman of the 1st Department of the Criminal Chamber.
From Feudal Times to the 19th Century Poland went through numerous changes of government, including partitioning of its territory by its three neighbors, Russia, Germany and Austria. After WWII from 1944 to 1950 when Poland was known as the Polish People’s Republic, the pre-war system of three instance courts (trial, appeal and cassation) was abolished and a two instance revision system was introduced, following the soviet pattern. The Supreme Court at this time ceased to be a cassation court and became an ordinary court of appeal. In 1952 a new Constitution stated that the “Supreme Court would be the main judicial authority and exercise supervision over the other courts of justice as far as the judicial decisions are concerned.” In 1962 the Supreme Court was divided into four chambers: Civil, Criminal, Labour and Social Insurance and Military. In 1981, during the period of the great social movement of “Solidarity,” the Supreme Court “exercised supervision over the activity of all the other courts’ judicial decisions, trying to guarantee the regularity and uniformity of the interpretation of law.” The Supreme Court also interpreted the law and resolved legal questions. During this time, under the political system, judges only held office for a term of five years and the majority of judges’ appointments were “politically driven.” Justices were obliged to make an oath that they would first of all protect the regime and the social property. They could be dismissed by the Council of the State if they did not “guarantee” due performance of duties. “Despite the declared independence of justices in 1982, among the 113 appointed Supreme Court justices, 88 were members of the communist party, however, it was not rare that membership in the communist party was forced by the circumstances.”
The Supreme Court, as a rule, kept away from politics and concentrated on the duty of the administration of justice. In 1989 when the Constitution was changed, the five-year term for justices was canceled and the “irremovability” of the Supreme Court justices was established. The Court was dissolved and a new bench appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland in 1990. A total of 57 justices were appointed to the Court, out of this number 22 were from the old bench. Professor Lech Gardocki was appointed as First President of the Supreme Court in October of 1998 by the President.
Justice Gardocki told the Academy group he had been the President of the Warsaw University before being appointed to the Supreme Court. He was appointed First President four years ago. He pointed out the Polish Supreme Court is different than the United States Supreme Court. In the United States, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court are blended. In Poland, the Supreme Court has authority over all the lower courts’ judgments in several ways: The judgments of the second instance courts may be appealed by way of ultimate appeal to the Supreme Court, in the sense that the Supreme Court is a causation court similar to that of France. “The main idea is to concentrate on legal application of court text and not on establishing legal or case facts. Our opinions will be based on the facts that were established and not on statements of lawyers. By making judgments here we try to achieve uniformity of law throughout the country. Our judgments are published and it is our main task through publication of our decisions to impose equitable understanding of the law in all the regional courts around the country. We may also promote information or understanding of law through questions addressed to us by the lower instance courts.”
The Supreme Court also makes decisions as to whether the elections are legal and valid. Justice Gardocki mentioned that he was a little surprised that the United States does not establish very clear guidelines about who decides whether or not an election is valid, and the group discussed this. The jury system in the United States was discussed. The Justices remarked upon cases where billions of dollars are awarded by juries in punitive damages, which they do not have. They mentioned the O.J. Simpson trial and John Grisham’s books. The Academy judges talked to the Polish Justices about their feelings on jury trials, both criminal and civil, and discussed mediation and arbitration and labour negotiation matters. President Mautino thanked the Justices for meeting with the group and distributed the Academy wine bottle coasters to the Justices. At a later time it was decided to invite Prof. Dr. Lech Gardocki to become an Honorary Member of the Academy.
The group was invited to visit a courtroom with a hearing in progress before a panel of three Justices of the Appellate Court. The case involved making false statements to the Revenue Office in violation of the Fiscal Penal Code.
After the meeting the group walked into the Old Town Warsaw Square. The entire square was destroyed in WWII and the Royal Castle was blown up by the Nazis after the fall of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Reconstruction began soon after the liberation. The original street layout was followed, houses and churches were reconstructed according to old photos and paintings. Every preserved piece of walls, floors and ornaments was used.
The Academy group enjoyed free time for lunch and shopping in Krasinski Square, and toured the Castle Square and St. John Cathedral. The group then went to visit Wilańow Palace, the 17th century residence of King John III Sobieski in south Warsaw. The palace has had numerous owners who added wings and buildings. During WWII it was used as a hospital by the Germans, who devastated the buildings, the park and its facilities and upon leaving took away all valuables. After the liberation, Wilańow was declared state property and a branch of the National Museum was established in the palace. A greater part of the collections has been regained. Today the royal and magnates’ rooms from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are open to visitors. After the Palace the group enjoyed a tour around Warsaw including the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial. In the evening a Farewell Dinner was held at the Literacka Restaurant.
SATURDAY: The group left Poland for the United States.
Written By Diane Z. Bowen, Executive Secretary Philip K. Mautino, President