The Third Branch
The Dane County contingent in Shanghai. Top row, from left: Judge William E. Hanrahan, Chief Judge C. William Foust, Judge Frank D. Remington, UW Law School Professor John K.M. Ohnesorge, Bottom row, from left: Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, Melissa Foust, UW Law School Lecturer Cheryl R. Weston and Judge Stephen E. Ehlke.
Continuing a decade-long program, Wisconsin judges traveled to Shanghai this summer to teach a variety of courses related to western legal practice. The judges then hosted 20 Chinese judges in Madison, where the visitors watched a Supreme Court oral argument, attended lectures at the UW Law School and observed proceedings at the Dane County Courthouse.
Visiting Shanghai were Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson and Dane County Circuit Court Judges Stephen E. Ehlke, C. William Foust, William E. Hanrahan and Frank D. Remington. They joined UW Law School Professors John K.M. Ohnesorge and Charles Irish, and Law School Lecturer Cheryl R. Weston on the trip, which was sponsored by the Shanghai High People's Court and the UW East Asian Legal Studies Center.
"We had wonderful and productive time," said Foust, who has taught in China in the past. He and his colleagues taught civil procedure, evidence, alternative dispute resolution and other topics related to western legal practice. "The Chinese judges were attentive students. Two of them stole the day by announcing a counterclaim in mid-opening statement!"
Judge Stephen E. Ehlke said the experience gave him an opportunity to think about the value of an independent judiciary.
"It was very interesting to see the Chinese courtrooms and hear about their system," he said. "I think the program is very helpful as a cultural exchange, but also to reflect on our system and how unique it is in terms of judicial independence and the rule of law."
China has been engaged for three decades in an effort to reshape its laws and courts, but the country's admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) provided a new incentive for reform. The country's involvement in the WTO means economic interactions – trading, joint enterprises, and more – with foreign countries, and the WTO wants to be assured that the court system will be available for the fair resolution of disputes.
Judge C. William Foust, left, receives a gift – an intricate carving – from Yu Zhengping, vice president of Shanghai High People's Court as Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson looks on.