Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse

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Several people sit in chairs in a "healing circle" discussing instances of abuse by clergy.My trip to Rome in spring 2016 triggered a return visit this past November, when I again taught a segment of a certificate program addressing the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

The Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection offers the four-month graduate certificate program to religious sisters, brothers and priests from around the world who are assigned to head up Protection for Children offices. The program goals: to teach how to deal with past abuse and prevent further incidents.

I spent a full day with 19 students representing four continents. While there were some language barriers to overcome, the group was able to comprehend the power of Restorative Justice (“RJ) presented in different contexts — particularly its value regarding sexual abuse within the Church.

I explained how in past clergy abuse cases, it is not often possible to bring victims and offenders face-to-face in dialogue because many offenders are in denial, deceased or too old, with limited memory. We, therefore, explored the hope that RJ offers in addressing “secondary victimization” by members of the Church’s hierarchy.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse”

Restorative Justice and the Language of Hope

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Professor Janine Geske standing at a podium with an open laptop as she addresses an audience in Germany.Regardless of one’s language, Restorative Justice (“RJ”) translates as hope. That was evident from my experience in Germany last October at a conference hosted by the University of Göttingen, which was titled “Victim Orientation in the Criminal Justice System: Practitioners’ Perspectives.”

I was invited to be one of the keynote presenters at the two-day conference. My presentation to the attendees — most of whom were criminal justice professionals including probation and parole agents — addressed how the United States actively uses RJ processes within the criminal justice system. Oh, and my presentation was the only one in English, with real-time translation provided in German through the marvels of headset technology.

I have become used to speaking internationally, so the language difference is not a daunting barrier for me, especially given the immediacy of RJ as an understandable concept and successful tool. I described the process and impact of victim/offender dialogue sessions in cases of violent crime and the value of restorative circles, particularly for schools and community organizations. Although Europe does not have much experience in using circles, I could tell that the conference attendees were eager to hear more about that process and about victim/offender dialogues in the context of juvenile RJ. As usual, most of my explanations were told through the stories of actual cases. I know that by describing the poignant experiences of real victims and offenders, the audience will better understand the transformational experience of an RJ process.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice and the Language of Hope”

An Eye-Opening Visit to Iran

Posted on Categories Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Religion & Law, Uncategorized2 Comments on An Eye-Opening Visit to Iran

Flag_of_Iran_svgMy work in Restorative Justice provides me with many rewarding travel experiences, and my recent trip to Iran is at the top of the list.

Professor Mohammad Farajahi, who teaches Persian law at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, invited me to attend a Restorative Justice (“RJ”) conference at its law school. I was one of seven keynote speakers from around the world, each asked to discuss how our respective country actively uses RJ processes within the criminal justice system. The conference also was an opportunity to discuss my current RJ projects as a panelist with Iranian and Iraqi lawyers and judges as well as to hear 40 scholars from Tehran present their research and findings on a variety of RJ initiatives. Professionally, the ability to interact with lawyers, judges, law students and the general public attending the conference was extremely fulfilling; personally, the cultural experience is unforgettable.

Most Americans do not readily think about traveling to Iran — especially women and, in my case, women who happen to be judges — given that the country’s Muslim laws generally limit females in society and specifically prohibit us from serving on the bench. As the only American invited to the conference, I felt both honored and admittedly apprehensive. While I have many Muslim friends in the U.S. and have been to other Muslim countries, I knew religious rules and overall “do’s and don’ts” would be much stricter in Iran, where I would be without the security of an American embassy since Iran and the U.S. have no formal diplomatic relations. This circumstance meant I could not get a visa directly from Iran, having to work through Pakistan. Receiving my visa only 36 hours before my flight, I worried about what awaited me culturally.

My clothing was a primary concern. From head to ankles, I needed to be covered despite being a foreigner traveling during the heat of summer. I stocked up on scarves for my head and shoulders and bought a montos, a knee-length coat that must be worn even when wearing pants. Only my feet could comfortably breathe as sandals are permitted. With 7,000 morality police patrolling the streets of Tehran to catch dress code violators and the Swiss embassy as my best option in case of trouble, I took no chances, donning my scarf and montos before getting off the plane. Continue reading “An Eye-Opening Visit to Iran”

When in Rome (Teach Restorative Justice)

Posted on Categories Human Rights, Public, Religion & Law, Uncategorized1 Comment on When in Rome (Teach Restorative Justice)
Students and staff join me during my spring 2016 Rome teaching experience.
Students and staff join me during my spring 2016 Rome teaching experience.

Last spring, I again had the privilege to travel abroad to train people in Restorative Justice (“RJ”). Father Hans Zollner, S.J., director of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection in Rome, invited me to teach a segment of a diploma course addressing the Catholic sex abuse scandal. Specifically, the training involves safeguarding minors. My students included 19 religious sisters, brothers and priests representing 19 countries. It was an honor to work with such a diverse group of individuals, who are truly eager to repair the harm caused to so many innocent victims. Although I was the teacher, the students provided me with a lesson in hope and perseverance.

They had come to Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection to learn about dealing with past sexual abuse and preventing further incidents. Originally launched in Munich in 2012, the center began educating seminarians, priests and laypeople by conducting e-learning programs and interdisciplinary research on abuse prevention.  The facility moved to Rome in 2015, spotlighting and advancing the Church’s resolve to address the issue globally. This year marked the first time the center offered an in-class experience, providing participants with a certificate after four months of training.

Such was the context of my week-long experience in Rome, when I met 19 dedicated religious from Africa, India, Belgium, Mexico and South America. I essentially had a day to expose them to RJ principles. In the morning, we watched “The Healing Circle,” an RJ documentary created at Marquette’s Law School a number of years ago that depicts how healing circles involving victims, offenders and clergy have been used effectively to talk candidly about sexual abuse and its devastating impact. Hoping that the students could imagine the value of healing circles in their own communities, I immediately saw the emotional power of the presentation, which visibly hit close to home for many in the class. With the second half of the day focused on discussing other effective RJ practices in dealing with abuse, the students had many questions and stories to share. Continue reading “When in Rome (Teach Restorative Justice)”

Restorative Justice and Mediation in Ireland

Posted on Categories Mediation, Public3 Comments on Restorative Justice and Mediation in Ireland

I have the privilege this week of serving as the keynote speaker at the annual Irish Mediator’s Institute conference in Dublin, Ireland. I will talk to this professional mediation organization about the incorporation of restorative justice principles into high emotional conflicts. In this time of family, community, political, national, and international conflict and discord, the principles of restorative justice that call all of us to truly listen to those with whom we disagree, so that we can better understand the deep harm we are inflicting by our name-calling and demonizing others, can help us to recognize our shared humanity and a path to building peaceful relationships.

I will have no shortage of examples of the harm caused by our angry divisions. Whether I talk about the American presidential race, the continuing conflicts in Northern Ireland, or the harm caused by the BBC’s alleged cover-up of sexual abuse claims against a popular children’s television star, the harm has rippled out to affect thousands of people. From the family level to international relations, we see much abusive and threatening language being used instead of people sitting down and respectfully listening to each other’s perspectives and concerns. So many of us speak and act in anger without thinking about the harm that we can cause others by our actions. Restorative justice calls us to reflect about who is being harmed and to identify the nature of that harm and then to work on bringing healing to the people who have been affected.

At the Law School, my students and I have been a part of victim/offender dialogue sessions in which murderers and rapists sit down with their victims (or family members of their victims) to have exceedingly difficult conversations. These meetings always occur because a victim has made a request for that meeting. What we routinely experience is that even with people who have suffered the deepest harm, victims find some peace in having these very difficult conversations. Offenders can answer questions, express their deep remorse, and acknowledge (often for the first time) the incredibly profound harm they have caused. Victims (or survivors as many like to be called) are able to give voice to the devastation they have suffered, get answers to questions that were never addressed in the judicial system, and find some peace in the offender’s apology. Offenders routinely report that they believe answering the victims’ questions is the best thing they have ever done for someone else.

I have seen restorative justice work in almost every setting where this is conflict. The processes do not “solve” every problem, but it reminds the participants that we are all part of a human family. What we do and say matters and can cause harm or bring great joy to others. The way out of our pain and anger is not to lash out but to listen to each other “with out hearts as well as our heads.”

It will be a wonderful experience to work with the Irish mediators and to explore with them how they can incorporate restorative justice into their work.

Restorative Justice Conference to Focus on Restoring Faith in Government Through Civil Discourse

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Restorative Justice Conference to Focus on Restoring Faith in Government Through Civil Discourse

Recently Sheldon Lubar, a highly respected and successful Milwaukee businessman, called upon our political leaders to return to civility. Finding that political labels are not particularly helpful, he describes his personal politics as follows:

My politics are for what is right, what makes common sense, what is decent, what will create prosperity and a good life — I am for civility. So what is civility? Webster defines civil, civility, civilization as follows:

A community of citizens. A rational and fair government.

Being polite and courteous is civil. . . . Civility is the positive and sincere consideration of others.

I believe that the founders of our great country sought to create a nation of “civility.” They sought to create a nation that elected leaders who could recognize both sides of all issues and through honest and informed debate could and would resolve differences fairly and then move ahead.

In this heavily financed election season, many are concerned with the lack of civil discourse and respectful debate in our political discussions. People disagree as to the causes of the problem and as to what is needed as solutions. On June 8th, the Marquette Law School Restorative Justice Initiative’s annual conference will present speakers who will focus on our theme for this year, “Restoring Faith in Government: Encouraging Civil Public Discourse.”

Every year we select a relevant issue to examine through a restorative justice lens by asking three critical questions: 1.) Who and what is being harmed by certain conduct? 2.) What is the nature (and the breadth and depth) of the harm? 3.) What needs to be done to work at repairing the harm? This year we chose to focus on civility in political life.

Our conference will examine whether Americans are losing faith in our ability to discuss, much less solve, our political problems. Two state senators and two former lieutenant governors will look at whether people are too discouraged to run for office or even to participate in the political process. Three nationally recognized public policy mediators will present ways to facilitate difficult but respectful discussions with people of diverse views. Speakers will talk about negative advertising and the negative blogging occurring in our print media that often looks like “recreational hostility.” Our keynote speaker, John Avlon, a senior columnist for Newsweek, will share his views on ways to heal polarization in America. We will end the conference with optimism by having a panel of enthusiastic Marquette students who have great hope for our governmental processes in the future. I believe it will be a very good day. I hope you will join us.


Victim/Offender Mediation in Turkey

Posted on Categories Judges & Judicial Process, Mediation, Public4 Comments on Victim/Offender Mediation in Turkey

After a delegation of members of the Turkish Parliament visited Marquette Law School last month, I had the privilege of traveling to Istanbul to moderate a victim/offender mediation conference for two hundred fifty Turkish prosecutors and judges. There were fourteen of us restorative justice “experts” from ten different countries who were there for three days to talk to the ballroom full of lawyers, who wanted to learn how to best implement Turkey’s already enacted victim/offender mediation process during criminal prosecutions.  It was a fabulous experience.

The United Nations’ Development Programs for Judicial Reform organized and oversaw the planning of the conference. Because the panel members came from many countries (Albania, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, and the United States), we had simultaneous translations of the conference into several languages. The Turkish audience was lively and eager to participate in the dialogue. Over the first two days we spent much of our time taking questions from the floor and answering them from the perspectives of different cultures, judicial systems and philosophies. The Turkish prosecutors and judges, like prosecutors and judges around the world, are working to improve the delivery of justice despite their significant caseloads. They hope that by using restorative processes that they can provide a more just system while reducing the number of cases that must go to trial.

I have a number of observations about the conference. Continue reading “Victim/Offender Mediation in Turkey”

Turkish Delegation Comes to Marquette Law School

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Sixteen dignitaries from Turkey, including members of the Turkish Parliament, representatives from the Ministry of Justice, and professors, spent March 1 at Marquette Law School (MULS) to learn about Wisconsin’s experiences with restorative justice and mediation. The law school’s Restorative Justice Initiative organized a meeting with them and Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, retired Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Barron County Circuit Court Judge Edward Brunner, Milwaukee County Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Mary Triggiano, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin James Santelle, and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, along with other prosecutors and Wisconsin restorative justice professionals. Professor and restorative justice scholar Mark Umbreit, from the University of Minnesota Center on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, as well as MULS Professors Andrea Schneider and Michael O’Hear, also attended the meeting. The Turkish delegation is working with the United Nations’ Development Program on judicial reforms and traveled to the United States for a week-long visit to learn about the use of mediation and restorative justice in our American court system. The group had meetings in Washington D.C. and New York and then came to Marquette University for one day. The Turkish Parliament has already incorporated Victim-Offender Dialogues into the Turkish criminal code and is working on drafting mediation legislation and part of the civil justice system. I will be traveling to Istanbul later this week to be part of a workshop on restorative justice for judges and prosecutors in Turkey.

All forty of us professionals, along with a group of my law students, met for our discussions in the MULS Conference Center. Our visitors were incredibly impressed with our wonderful new law school building and programs. Dean Joseph Kearney gave everyone a warm welcome thanking our visitors for “bringing the world to Marquette Law School.”

All of us learned a great deal from each other during the questions and answers (including those of us from Wisconsin hearing what others are doing in our own state.) Continue reading “Turkish Delegation Comes to Marquette Law School”

Restorative Justice Skyping From Milwaukee to Austin

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As a law school educator, I am not particularly known for my use of high-tech electronic equipment. I much prefer teaching through direct storytelling and student participation. I simply like to make direct eye contact with people with whom I am talking. However last Saturday I had the wonderful experience of combining my storytellling/interactive teaching and Skype with a restorative justice class at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Marilyn Armour, a restorative justice scholar who teaches a course which is offered to both law students and social work students, asked me to talk to her weekend class.

Most people who know me will tell you that if you ask me to speak about our MULS restorative justice work, I have a hard time saying no. That being said, I still wondered how it was going to go, trying to teach a class long distance through a computer. Having traveled internationally, I have used Skype before . . . but I have never used it to teach a class. I was amazed how well it worked. Some of the law students asked really great questions about how to incorporate restorative justice into the criminal justice system and the corporate world. A social work student asked about ways she could utilize these processes in her future work. I could see the entire class. Although it was 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, I am happy to report that they all appeared to stay awake and fully engaged in the discussion. And I had the ease of teaching the class from my bedroom (I did dress up since they could see me as well.)

I am still not convinced that “long-distance learning” can replace the value of students and teacher being in the same room with each other; there is something about that personal interaction including the casual talk that occurs before and after class that leads to important learning and interactions. But this experience has convinced me that electronic communications can enhance and supplement our traditional teaching in exciting (and inexpensive) ways.

Reflections from a Semester Abroad

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It is as though I am back in my college years, spending my semester abroad. This fall I am living in the beautiful city of Leuven, Belgium, a city of about 100,000 people and located about twenty miles outside of Brussels. I am teaching at the Catholic University of Leuven Law School’s Criminology Institute where there is a vibrant and well-known restorative justice department. A group of professors here, led by highly respected Dr. Ivo Aertsen, as well as many Ph.D. students and researchers, are examining and writing about the impact of restorative justice programs in many different countries and cultures.

The university was founded in 1425, making it the oldest Catholic university in the world. There are 40,000 students here (and I think they all ride bicycles). I also have the privilege of living in what is called the Groot Beginjnof (or for us French speakers “the Grand Beguinage.”) In about 1325, groups of women from the Low Countries decided to create their own religious communities and build small towns in which they lived. They were strong, independent women who did not want to attach themselves to religious orders (and wanted to maintain control over their personal finances rather than give them to the Catholic Church).

Continue reading “Reflections from a Semester Abroad”

Appearing Before the Court

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[Editor’s Note: This month faculty members share their favorite brief writing or oral argument tip. This is the first entry in the series.]

When people ask me about the most helpful tip I can give for writing a brief and appearing in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, my answer is always “preparation, preparation, preparation.” The most effective appellate lawyers have spent an incredible amount of time knowing and understanding their cases and the applicable and relevant law in the area. They have “mooted” their oral arguments a number of times in front of different lawyers or retired judges. Of course, appellate books and training programs tell you to do that as well.

I believe it is perhaps more helpful for me to write about a significant mistake I have seen very well prepared lawyers make. The biggest error by counsel appearing before the Court is to get too close to the case. They know how they want the case to turn out (although occasionally we had an attorney appear who could not exactly explain what he or she believed the mandate line should say if there is a reversal). We all understand that counsel’s objective (rightfully so) is to win it for the client.

Continue reading “Appearing Before the Court”

Dean Howard Eisenberg in His Own Voice

Posted on Categories Legal Practice, Marquette Law School History, Public, Speakers at Marquette4 Comments on Dean Howard Eisenberg in His Own Voice

One of the activities that many of us faculty members undertake during the summer months is to clean out some drawers and shelves. While recently tackling that chore, I was thrilled to find an old tape from a 1999 conference we put on at the law school on “Spirituality and Work.” I had forgotten that Dean Howard Eisenberg was the luncheon keynote speaker that day. What a thrill for me to listen to the tape and to hear Howard speak about one of his favorite themes, “What Is a Nice Jewish Boy Doing in a Place Like This.” He talks about his deanship and his views on spirituality and the legal profession. I thought others might enjoy having the opportunity to hear Howard, in his own words, speaking from his heart. With the level of incivility in our professional and political world, I believe his words are probably even more relevant today than they were when he spoke them twelve years ago. Here is the link to that talk.


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