Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty joined the president justice of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica last month to sign an academic agreement unifying the two institutions under the common goal of promoting education about international law.
But one man standing in the back played a pivotal role.
Robert Barker, a Duquesne law professor, has been traveling to Costa Rica as an attorney for more than 40 years, constantly being drawn back to the area and its "outgoing and helpful" people.
Mr. Barker said the Costa Rican judicial system is one of the most respected in the world, citing its reliability and efficiency. So after ongoing trips, conferences and conversations with officials in the early 1990s, the framework for an agreement of academic cooperation was born at the suggestion of the Costa Rican judiciaries.
Mr. Barker said he was thrilled.
The agreement, which first took effect in 1993, lasted for six years and then went dormant. But conversations and exchanges continued. Now the agreement is being renewed as a five-year operation, allowing for continued opportunities for research and studies.
The agreement also includes officials involved with the Judicial School of Costa Rica, which aims to continue the education of the justices in that country's court system.
Beginning this fall, the agreement will foster an exchange program of sorts, where professors and members of the Costa Rican Supreme Court will travel freely between Pittsburgh and Costa Rica in order to deliver lectures and take on research ventures that are mutually beneficial.
Ken Gormley, dean of the Duquesne School of Law, said the hope is that these exchanges will eventually spill over into the student sector.
"It opens up possibilities because you have direct relationships with the parties involved," he said. "You spend time together and do these visits and figure out what we can do next to make this relationship even better."
While faculty and personnel will be the ones traveling to begin with, Mr. Barker and Mr. Gormley agreed that, for students, an international view of law is crucial to the learning process.
"I believe that international law has become an absolutely essential component of legal education," Mr. Gormley said. "This gives us a wonderful position so that not only are we giving students courses, but actual opportunities to interact."legalnews
Anna Orso: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1969. First Published May 14, 2012 12:00 AM