by Pam Zubeck
It's not every day you have a justice of the Supreme Court of the Lao Democratic People’s Republic come to town, so everyone lined up to have their photo taken.
As a fellow of Resource Exchange International, Mr. Phomsouvanh Philachanh got a firsthand view of U.S. Constitutional law by observing cases in local courts, visiting with local elected officials and attending public meetings, the county said in a release.
Vice Chair Sallie Clark introduced Phomsouvanh (in Laos it is customary to use first names only) at the meeting noting that the Laotian Justice was studying for a month in the United States and had observed trials in El Paso County and met with Chief District Court Judge Kirk Samelson as well as 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May. Clark commented, “We know that your government system is very different from ours and we are honored to have the opportunity to let you see our judicial system in action and to get a better understanding of how things are done in your country.”
Justice Phomsouvanh told the Commissioners, “I have learned a lot about your country and your courts and I will tell you that the fundamentals are very different.”
Laos does have a presumption of innocence but there are no jury trials. He also pointed out that his country does not separate powers among three branches of government as required by the U.S. Constitution; accused parties in Laos do not have the “Miranda” rights to an attorney and to remain silent when questioned by police.
Resource Exchange International (not to be confused with the well known non-profit known as The Resource Exchange) was founded in 1990 to share training and resources from the U.S.A. with professionals in emerging countries. The organization says it now has a staff of sixty plus scores of volunteers working in 10 countries worldwide.
While in our area Justice Phomsouvanh also sat in on classes and toured facilities at the United States Air Force Academy and received a personal tour of Colorado Springs Pioneers’ Museum which is housed in the historic 1903 El Paso County Courthouse.