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JDR Panelist Teaches in the Czech Republic

Judge George Finkle, Ret., has just returned to JDR after teaching in the Czech Republic—serving in October 2010 as a Visiting Professor at the Masaryk University Law Faculty. Judge Finkle writes:

Masaryk University is located in Brno, the seat of the Czech Republic’s Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. The university is named for Jan Masaryk, the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia.

I taught U.S. courts, arbitration and current legal issues. Law is an undergraduate major in the Czech Republic, as in most EU countries, and my students were upper class undergraduates or Masters-level. Czech students are accustomed to diligent note-taking at lectures taught by remote professors, so even my gentle questions and requests for comment were tough sells. When I did get my students to talk, many had healthy skepticism about the role of government in solving problems, as opposed to unfairly intruding into the lives of citizens—this view perhaps based at least in part on the tough 40 years the Czechs spent under the Soviet heel.

After I asked to observe a trial in the Czech courts, the Vice Dean of the Law Faculty responded by setting up a meeting at the Czech Supreme Court. I met there for an “exchange of ideas” with the Chief Civil Justice and Chief Criminal Justice in a grand conference room, complete with crossed Czech and U.S. flags, I felt as if we were negotiating a missile treaty!

I was also able to visit Slavkov u Brna, a Moravian village where my great-grandfather ran the Hotel Pelikan until he emigrated to New York City in 1875.

All in all, a great adventure.

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