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  • Ondrea Li

The U.S. Legal System and the Role of the Public Defender: A Project for the PRC Program Recap

From June 1st to 6th, we hosted, “The U.S. Legal System and the Role of the Public Defender: A Project for the People’s Republic of China” in eastern Iowa. Five representatives from China participated in this program where they aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. legal system. The program included meetings with various legal professionals such as professors, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and students.

Upon their arrival at the hotel, the delegation was welcomed by Global Ties Iowa Executive Director Amy Alice Chastain. The next morning, they walked to the Johnson County Courthouse, accompanied by volunteer Ellen Osinska. At the Office of the State Public Defender, the delegation met with Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmerman Smith, Iowa State Assistant Public Defender Matt Shimanovsky, and District Associate Judge Jason Burns where they discussed Iowa’s legal representation in criminal, juvenile, and other eligible proceedings. After that, the delegation had some free time.

In the evening, the delegation was transported to the home of Alan and Liz Bergeron, the President of the Board of Directors, for an Iowa Table Dinner. At the start of the evening, the visitors had an opportunity to interact with retired Massachusetts Public Defender, Scott Miller, who was also a special guest at the dinner.

The following day, the delegation met volunteer Travis Vivian at the Amana Colonies for a Historic tour. In Amana, they met with Step On guide Ms. Elise Heitmann who introduced the history of the Amana Colonies. The delegation then toured two more Amana Heritage sites. Later, some of the delegations joined the delegation from Pakistan, along with Amy Alice Chastain and Maria Ounap, for Pizza on the Farm in Wellman, IA.

During the rest of the weekend, the delegation had the opportunity to freely enjoy the Iowa Arts Festival happening in downtown Iowa City and other sites of interest.

On the morning of Monday, June 5th, District Associate Judge Jason Burns invited the delegation to observe a criminal court proceeding. Following the observation, the delegation had some free time before meeting with Linn County Advocate Staff Attorney Aaron Eddy at the Element Hotel conference room. During this meeting, they discussed how Linn County Advocate not only does court-appointed work but also provides legal advice to those in need, whether it is an adult criminal case or juvenile delinquency. Aaron emphasized how the firm assures that competent and educated attorneys are serving people through the criminal justice system and beyond.

The rest of the evening was free for the delegation to enjoy eastern Iowa. They departed for El Paso, Texas the next morning.

We would like to express our gratitude to the Johnson County Attorney, Office of the State Public Defender, Associate Judge Burns, the Amana Heritage Society, and the Linn County Advocate for serving as our professional resources in this program! We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to engage with our visitors!

Thank you to our volunteers Amy Alice Chastain, Ellen Osinska, Liz Bergeron, Alan Bergeron, Maria Ounap, Tavis Vivian, and special guest, Scott Miller for making the visitors’ time in eastern Iowa special!


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