International Expert – Benchbook Needs Assessment

Checchi and Company Consulting

Liberia, West Africa

The International Expert will conduct detailed needs assessment and develop draft implementation plans for the development and publication of up-dated and expanded benchbook for Magistrates, a Handbook for Public Defenders, and a benchbook for Circuit Court Judges in Liberia.

Background

On July 17, 2015, USAID launched the Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program (LPAC) to improve justice sector capacity and services in Liberia.

The LPAC is USAID/Liberia’s primary formal justice sector program. LPAC fits within a greater framework of the Mission’s current and planned rule of law and governance sector activities, as it seeks to promote a more effective and accountable formal justice sector through improved capacity of five legal institutions: the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the Liberia Legal Information Institute, the Liberian National Bar Association, and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

LPAC supports human and institutional capacity development of the Judicial Institute (JI) with the aim of making the institution financially and administratively sustainable and able to operate effectively with minimal international donor support. This Scope of Work relates to the LPAC Year 4 work plan area benchbooks for Magistrates and Public Defenders, Activity A.1.c.3: Professional Magistrates Training Program; A.1.c.4: Quarterly Judges, Magistrates and Public Defenders Training Program.

The current version of benchbook for Magistrates on Criminal Procedure was developed by Liberian and international experts and published in December 2009 with the support of USAID. Especially because of the expansion of the mandate of Magistrates in 2012 giving them increased jurisdiction, including in many non-criminal areas, LPAC and the Supreme Court have agreed that the benchbook should be updated, include new areas of jurisdiction and concern. The bench book would be distributed (preferably) in loose-leaf format permitting for updating and expansion in years to come.

The current “Criminal Defense Practice Manual for Public Defenders” prepared and published by the Supreme Court with the support of UNODC and other international actors in 2004-2005 should be updated also. Public Defenders require a manual that recognizes their broader scope of work before Magistrate Courts, Circuit Court, and occasionally appeals to the Supreme Court. The current UNODC edition is not a user-friendly publication, more like a text book, whereas what is needed is a manual with procedural guidance to be used in court daily. Specific sections will be included on issues such as “Bail and Pre-Trial Detention”, “Plea Bargaining”, “Gender Crimes”, “Admissibility of Evidence”, “Ethics”, “Document Formats”, etc.

In addition, the issue of developing and benchbook for the use of Circuit Court Judges has been raised and discussed frequently with the Supreme Court and the National Association of Trial Judges (NATJ). All Judges in Liberia appear to take the Bench without prior specific induction or training, and some have not actively appeared before courts. The result is lack of consistency in terms of demeanor, procedures and outcomes. Quarterly Training supports Judges but cannot replace the need for detailed guidance on demeanor, court and case management, scope of authority and jurisdiction, how specific categories of cases should be heard, how to deal with appeals from Magistrate Courts, how to manage prosecutors, plaintiffs, defendants; admissible evidence, sentencing guidelines, plea bargaining, etc. Such a benchbook would become a guide for conduct and practice of the Circuit Courts for the next decade.

For the two bench books and manual, the STTA will carry out a needs assessment, develop an index of topics to be covered in each, and develop a detailed scope of work for each product. The SOWs will include estimated length and areas of focus for STTA, qualifications needed for Liberian and international STTA, level of effort and timeline for the development of each and roll out including training on the use and content of benchbooks and manual.

Scope of Work/Tasks

Checchi and Company Consulting, Inc. (Checchi) proposes to engage an experienced expert to support the Supreme Court, Judicial Institute, the National Association of Trial Judges (NATJ), and the National Association of Public Defenders Lawyers (NAPDL) in accomplishing related objectives as outlined above and summarized as follows:

  1. Conduct a needs assessment and develop a draft scope of work for the development of an up-dated and expanded benchbook for Magistrates.
  2. Conduct a needs assessment and develop a scope of work for the development of a Public Defenders Manual.
  3. Conduct a needs assessment and develop a draft scope of work for the development of a benchbook for the use of Circuit Court Judges.

Deliverables

  1. A brief trip report outlining details of meetings and activities.
  2. Assessment accompanied by a scope of work for the development of up-dated and expanded benchbook for Magistrates.
  3. Assessment accompanied by a scope of work for the development of a Public Defenders Manual.
  4. Assessment accompanied by a scope of work for the development of a benchbook for the use of Circuit Court Judges.

Level of Effort:

This assignment is planned for the September/October 2018 period.

The Expert should plan to spend up to 5 days at his/her home base to complete a preliminary review of the current benchbook for magistrates, and the Criminal Defense Practice Manual for Public Defenders.

The Expert should plan to spend up to 18 work days in Liberia to complete the assessments and the scopes of work for the development of the benchbooks and the manual.

The total number of days for this consultancy will not exceed 23 working days, including travel days.

Reporting

The Expert shall report to the LPAC Chief of Party and all work under this SOW will be accomplished under the direct supervision and in close collaboration with the Legal and Judicial Education Advisor.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Fifteen years of experience working with judicial actors and curriculum development.
  • Knowledge of and experience in assessing different countries’ legal systems is essential.
  • International experience, Africa and preferably specific Liberia experience is essential.
  • Extensive experience in the use and application of benchbooks in common law jurisdictions.
  • Experience as a Judge, Prosecutor, Public, Litigator is essential.
  • Prior experience working with courts in an international development environment.
  • Excellent writing and analytical skills.
  • Excellent listening, lecturing and comprehension of resource constraints and limitations.
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