Libyan visitors

As their country works to draft a new constitution, a delegation of Libyan judges and prosecutors visited Marietta Wednesday as part of a three week visit to Ohio highlighting aspects of the American legal system and American culture.

In Marietta, the eight visiting judges and prosecutors toured the Washington County Juvenile Center and Washington County Common Pleas Court, had a chance to meet with local professional counterparts, and learned about local culture and history at Campus Martius and The Ohio River Museum.

Visiting Libyan judge Ali Elfourteia said the judges were able to learn a lot about the use of technology in the court system during their Marietta visit.

“We’ve been learning a lot about using technology in the court, using the internet. We still use hand written reports in Libya,” explained Elfourteia, 45.

The visit will enable the judges to learn more about the American legal system and take some of that knowledge back to Libya as the country works to reshape itself following the 2011 overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country for over four decades, explained Mark Poeppelman, Executive Director of The Columbus International Program, wjp accpmpanied the delegation.

“We’ve visited courts all around the states, the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court in Cleveland, Common Pleas Court in Dayton,” said Poeppelman.

The delegation arrived in Ohio April 19, hosted by The Columbus International Program and The Ohio Supreme Court.

Elfourteia, who received a first Master of Laws degree from Cleveland’s Case Western University in 2011 and a second in 2012, was instrumental in putting together the cultural exchange, added Poeppelman.

During Gaddafi’s rule, such a trip would have never been possible, added Elfourteia.

Some of the main goals of the trip are to learn about the differences between the two legal systems and cultures and for the judges to introduce themselves, said Elfourteia.

For example, Libya has no juries and judges are selected much differently.

“A judge is not elected by the people in Libya,” explained Elfourteia.

Instead, judges are appointed to the position. Only those who have served as public defenders or prosecutors for seven years are eligible for appointment. Private attorneys are not, he explained.

Elfourteia and others are hopeful they will be able to take their experiences in Ohio and use them as they return to Libya and its transforming legal system. In addition to the adoption of a new constitution, Libyan laws will likely undergo a transformation in the coming months.

“We have started rewriting many of the laws that had been established under the dictatorship,” said Elfourteia.

After touring the juvenile center and court, the visiting delegation had a chance to meet with some members of the Washington County Bar Association during a luncheon hosted by local attorneys Susan and Ethan Vessels.

The luncheon was a great experience, said Andrew Webster, vice president of the county bar association.

“It’s always good to get the chance to experience other cultures and engage in an exchange,” said Webster.