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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Law school to aid Iraqi government

By Trent Lowe, Staff Writer

A team of law experts from the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law will leave in the beginning of March to assist Iraq in ironing out some constitutional wrinkles.

The group, headed by Jim Holbrook, a clinical law professor at the U, will aid the Iraqi government in matters of judicial and legislative procedure. Barry Scholl, a spokesman for the law school, said the U was granted nearly $8 million by the U.S. Department of State to provide legal expertise to the infant democracy until the end of the year.

“The hope is that we are able to help the Iraqis as they work to establish a democracy after years of war,” said Holbrook, who will serve as the group’s chief of party.

The U enters the scene in a time when Iraq’s constitution is undergoing many changes. The constitution, first drafted in October 2005 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, is being reviewed and revised, with more than 60 pieces of legislation still needing to be passed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

Hiram Chodosh, dean of the U’s law school, applied for federal grants to make the project possible. The grants, equaling nearly $8 million, will allow the U to aid the Iraqi parliament in constitutional revisions and to assist in drafting legislation to combat corruption on all governmental levels.

“We will be working with aides and legal counsel most often, and also members of parliament that are on various committees,” Holbrook said. “They have control of their own future, and they’re free to accept our aid.”

Andrew Allen, a scholar and British lawyer, will aid Holbrook as a deputy chief of party. Vincent Battle, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon between 2001 and 2004, will also serve as a deputy chief of party. There will also be members of the team who remain in Salt Lake City, including Chibli Mallat, one of the world’s leading experts on Middle Eastern law and a recent addition to the faculty at the U’s law school.

“We’re very honored to be doing it8212;it’s an academic process that involves students and faculty,” said Kathy Christiansen, a grants and contracts officer at the College of Law. “We’re helping them in the judicial and legislative processes,”

The U’s involvement goes past the legislative and educational processes, however. The information technology department within the law school has adapted Basecamp, an interactive software used by many of the world’s top companies, to be used by the legal team.

The software will allow those involved with the project to view all updates and new developments concerning Iraq, no matter where they are in the world.

“The team will use the Basecamp application to keep everyone updated,” said Mark Beekhuizen, IT director for the law school. “I can add something here and the professor at Penn State can look at it and add anything he wants, then someone in Baghdad can look it over.”

While in Iraq, the team will be supervised by officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Holbrook will send regular transmissions which will be broadcast on the U’s Web site, as well as the project’s Web site,

“The hope is that we are able to help the Iraqis as they work to establish a democracy after years of war,” Holbrook said. “It really is a marvelous opportunity for the University of Utah to be involved in this effort.”

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James Holbrook

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