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For Westport Rotary Clubs, Ukraine Is Moot

Whenever Ukraine is in the headlines, the news is bad. Border disputes, business shenanigans — even Chernobyl is there.

Rule of law has broken down in the Eastern European nation.

We’re going through a rough patch ourselves. But a few months ago, during the impeachment process, Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs decided to do something in support of our country’s faith in law. It’s something, they said, that’s fundamental to our democracy, and separates us from many other nations oppressed by tyranny.

Because Ukraine is desperately trying to expunge corruption from both its political and legal systems, the clubs — Sunrise Rotary, and the noontime Rotary Club — decided to focus their efforts there.

Ken Bernhard — an attorney, constitutional law professor and former state representative — had also taught in Ukraine. He contacted Professor Demitriy Kamensky of the Berdyansk State Pedagogical University.

Berdyansk State Pedagogical University

Kamensky — who has an LLM in taxation, a Ph.D. in criminal law, and taught at Florida State College of Law — said the clubs’ timing was perfect. Berdyansk State had hoped to construct a moot court setting, to resemble one in their country’s actual legal system. It would provide a training environment for aspiring litigators.

Westport’s 2 Rotaries contributed $2,500 each. The courtroom was opened last week.

Kamesky says:

Thanks to our friends at Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club for their support of the rule of law in Ukraine, which is no longer a distant, foreign principle. Indeed it affirms that reality for our law students, faculty and legal professionals.

The moot courtroom has become a place to learn how the judicial systems operates within a free, democratic society. This is where legal theory meets legal practice, where new skills are learned and progressive legal tools are examined. We are very grateful to the clubs for their confidence in our legal community.

The moot classroom.

It seems like a small gesture. The impact on Ukraine’s legal system will not be felt for a while — and it can never be measured.

Rotary clubs raise money so that they can give it away. (And they keep doing it, despite a steep drop in fundraising during COVID).

Combine that with the fact that “Supporting education” is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” “Supporting education” is one of their 6 areas of focus.

From Westport to Ukraine, today there is living — and legal — proof that it matters.

(For information on the Westport Rotary Club, click here. For Westport Sunrise Rotary, click here.)

Ken Bernhard (left) and Professor Kamensky, with the Connecticut state flag, in 2018.

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