Sunday, September 28, 2014

UA Law Professor Teaches Comparative Constitutional Law in Lithuania

In late May and early June, Professor Howard Brill traveled to Vytautus Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania to teach Comparative Constitutional Law to 50 Lithuanian law students. The topics covered in the course included the War Against Terror (including the use of drones and targeted killings), Comparative Free Speech, Comparative Religious Freedom (including the ban on religious clothing worn by women in Western Europe), the protection of minority rights (including the Roma in Europe), and secession from the nation (including Quebec, Crimea, and Scotland).

Upon completion of the program, Professor Brill commented, “all students in Lithuania now begin learning English at an early grade, unlike their parents who learned Russian. Vytautus Magnus University is a new institution. The faculty of law has created a program drawing upon American experiences. I found the students eager to learn, interested in different teaching and learning styles, and most knowledgeable about the world.”

With a population of 3 million, Lithuania is approximately half the size of Arkansas. Though it gained independence after World War I, Lithuania was occupied first by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, then by the Soviets after the liberation. Lithuania remained a part of the Soviet Union until March 1990, when it again declared its independence. Since that time, a democratic Lithuania has sought closer ties with the West, joining both NATO and the European Union.

Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania, has long been a leading center of economic, academic, and cultural activity. It sits at the confluence of Lithuania’s two largest rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, and is about one hour away from the capital of Vilnius. It was founded in the 11th century and joined the Hanseatic League in the 15th century. Napoleon passed through the city both during his invasion of, and his eventual retreat from, Russia. In addition to this rich history, Kaunas is also famous for its basketball team, Zalgiris.

While in Kaunas, Professor Brill spoke at an International Conference on Legal Ethics, sponsored by Vytautus Magnus University. The speakers were from Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, Poland, Belgium, and the United States. Professor Brill’s topic was teaching methods for Professional Responsibility: the use of role playing, actual cases, and movies.

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