Judge Margo Brodie Speaks to Council on International Affairs About Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training

On February 18, 2014, Judge Margo K. Brodie of the Eastern District of New York, spoke to members of the Council on International Affairs of the New York City Bar Association about the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance & Training (“OPDAT”) and her experiences providing training to prosecutors in Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe.

OPDAT provides technical assistance and training to prosecutors abroad at the request of foreign governments with funding received from the U.S. Department of State and others. It sends Resident Legal Advisors (“RLAs”) to serve in foreign countries and provide comprehensive assistance for at least one year and Intermittent Legal Advisors (“ILAs”) to assist with specific programs abroad for less than one year. 

Judge Brodie noted that not all RLAs and ILAs are federal prosecutors and that some are state and local prosecutors. Judge Brodie noted that OPDAT selects “people with expertise in particular areas.”

Before joining the bench, Judge Brodie served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York and participated in many OPDAT training missions. In 2005 to 2006, she served 10 months in Nigeria, where she advised prosecution agencies in the areas of public corruption, economic and financial fraud, and human trafficking. From 2008 through 2012, on behalf of OPDAT, the State Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she provided training to prosecutors and other law enforcement officials in numerous countries, including Tanzania, Lesotho, Swaziland, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Trinidad, the Bahamas, and Bosnia and Herzegovina on various topics.

Judge Brodie described some of the challenges that she encountered abroad, including a lack of access to training materials and CLE-type programs. When conducting trainings, she would often donate used law books and other materials to foreign prosecutors. She also noted that improving the rule of law abroad requires enhancing many aspects of the criminal justice system, including improving access to justice to criminal defendants, and referred to the absence in some countries of some of the rights we have in the United States, such as the protection against the use of improperly seized evidence and the right to counsel and bail.

Although evaluation of the effect of the programs may take time and resources, Judge Brodie observed that some positive results were already apparent. For example, in one country, she provided basic skills training to junior prosecutors during her first training, and when she returned years later, it was evident that the prosecutors had gained substantial experience, so she could engage in more advanced training, including on human trafficking. In fact, some of the prosecutors she had trained had been elevated to manage their own offices and supervise their own teams around the country. In her experience, “foreign prosecutors appreciated the training opportunities, which were otherwise rarely available.”