The following is a guest post by Legislative Fellows Program Interns Inna Grebeniuk and Irina Khakhutaishvili. Inna is a Senior Legal Adviser at the Main Legal and Experts Department, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and Irina is the Chief Specialist for International Relations at the Secretariat of the President, Constitutional Court of Georgia. I hope you enjoy reading their post as much as I did.
We just concluded our five-week internship at the Law Library of Congress (LLC) as part of the Legislative Fellows Program (LFP) and we thought we would use this opportunity to tell In Custodia Legis readers a bit about the program and our experience, albeit brief, working at the LLC.
The LFP is a project organized by the American Councils for International Education and supported by the United States Department of State. Established in 2005, the LFP seeks to expose young professionals from around the world to the political process in the United States. Individuals selected to participate, Legislative Fellows, are “outstanding young leaders working in politics, local government or civil society with an established interest in promoting democratic reform.” The LFP is in part designed to “cultivate an increased understanding of the U.S. legislative process and enhanced appreciation of the role of civic society in the political process.” As such, it offers Legislative Fellows, such as those from the Republics of Georgia and Ukraine, internship opportunities in various United States government institutions, including federal and state legislatures, city councils, and local governments.
We feel fortunate to have been selected to participate in the LFP and, even better, that we were placed at the LLC for the duration of our internship – part of the United States legislative branch that plays an important role in the law making process of the country. The LLC has established relations with the American Councils and traditionally hosts LFP participants.
This year, however, was special. For the first time, a two-day orientation program for all Legislative Fellows was conducted by the LLC’s specialists. The orientation sessions introduced the Legislative Fellows to the structure of the United States government and legal system, provided an overview of the federal legislative process, and taught us how to find information on American laws when we return home. The sessions were particularly informative, partly because they were conducted by people whose jobs routinely involve answering Congressional legal inquiries. The subject matters covered in the sessions ranged from how electoral districts are established in the United States to why the United States Botanical Garden is a part of the legislative branch. At the end of the orientation sessions other Legislative Fellows went to their host institutions all over the country and we returned to the LLC for an exciting month of internship.
Our work at the LLC and stay in Washington, DC, has enriched our personal and professional development by allowing us to take part in various insightful forums for exchanging information and ideas. Visiting several United States government institutions, particularly attending Congressional hearings and Supreme Court arguments, and witnessing the democratic process first-hand were among the highlights of our visit. This will undoubtedly have a profound effect on how we view our political systems and carry out our functions at home. Working within walking distance of the National Mall with its world-class museums and national landmarks as well as participating in tours of the Capitol and Jefferson buildings have made our trip memorable.
During our internship period at the LLC, we assisted LLC Foreign Law Specialists on research and collection development matters concerning our countries, Georgia and Ukraine. We prepared recommendations to enhance the LLC’s collection on Georgian and Ukrainian laws; wrote briefs on a major recent legal development in these countries for the Global Legal Monitor; and prepared reports on different issues, including combating domestic violence, passports and identification cards, and retaining legal counsel.
In addition, while at the LLC, we had the opportunity to be engaged in interesting and timely issues of the day through various events organized by the LLC. We were so lucky to have had the chance to meet with many distinguished scholars such as Professor Joseph Raz of Columbia Law School during his visit to the LLC. He delivered a thought-provoking lecture titled Sovereignty and Legitimacy: On the Changing Face of Law—Questions and Speculations, for the second Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence, which we attended. We even had the chance to volunteer for the event alongside LLC staff.
It is noteworthy that through our constant interaction with the excellent staff of the LLC we were able to gain a better understanding of American history, broaden our knowledge of the United States legislative workings, and strengthen our research skills. They were always open, friendly, approachable, and willing to assist. We would like to thank the LLC staff for their support and we hope to host them in our respective countries in the near future.
Finally, we look forward to continued cooperation with the LLC in the form of establishing and implementing mutual projects within the auspices of LFP.