Ukrainian legal officials study U.S. system in visit


March 10, 2005 12:00 am • By Sean Wolfe For the Gazette-Times

ALBANY - A delegation of legal professionals from Ukraine took a break from their weeklong schedule to take questions from students at Linn-Benton Community College.

The team came to Oregon as part of Open World, a program first authorized and underwritten by Congress in 1999 to increase understanding between Russia and the United States.

The Benton Center of LBCC was selected as an exchange site in part because Corvallis has a sister-city program with the Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod.

Questions from the LBCC students on Monday ranged widely from land use to divorce law.

The delegates included Valentyna Antypets, 39, an appellate judge from Kiev; Valentyn Paliy, 33, a commercial court judge; attorneys Olexander Yermak, 26, and Karina Makarenko, 22; a facilitator, and a translator.

Key differences that emerged in the discussion included land ownership. For example, under Ukrainian federal law, it is possible to own a house, and the land under it. But the notion of corporations owning vast tracts of land is a completely foreign idea. For starters, corporations - as Americans know them - don't exist there.

"We don't have corporations, per se. But we do have consortia of banks and entrepreneurs - like a business group," Antypets said. "There also is no land ownership, but there is land use. The land belongs to the government, and I should add that means collectively by the people."

Other differences include mandatory sentencing. The Ukraine hasn't seen any laws like Oregon's Measure 11. Instead, each crime has an upper and lower range, and the judge has broad discretion in handing down sentences.

The delegation was scheduled to head to Salem on Tuesday to observe the Oregon Supreme Court. On Wednesday, they visited Benton County Circuit Court, and today they will tour the Benton County jail. On Friday, they will have a presentation on intellectual property law from Hewlett-Packard Co. attorney Curt Rose, then meet with two retired judges. On Saturday, they depart for Ukraine.

Over the years, the program has sent more than 7,000 current and future Russian decision makers to various parts of the United States to better acquaint themselves with American institutions, politics and civic life. Recent delegations have visited many U.S. cities to study health care, non-profit organizations, media practices and leadership.

Paliy said he hopes to share some of these experiences with his co-workers upon his return.

"I think it will expand all of my horizons, as well as everyone else's," he said. "I also have ambitions at some time in the future to help draft legislation for my country. I think these experiences will help that as well".

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