Tag Archives: Berdyansk law school

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.

Rotary Clubs Reach Out To Ukraine

For months, Americans have been flooded with news about Ukraine.

For most of us, it’s a foreign country. We can’t quite figure out its politics, its place in the world, or all the political and business figures with similar-sounding names who seem to be doing nefarious things.

Ken Bernhard is not confused.

Ken Bernhard

The longtime Westporter — an attorney who spent 8 years representing Westport in the General Assembly, rising to assistant minority leader; served as 3rd selectman from 1987-89; was on the Zoning Board of Appeals; has been on boards from the Library and Chamber of Commerce to Earthplace, Levitt Pavilion and Aspetuck Land Trust; helped found the Syria Fund for refugee aid, is involved with an orphanage in Haiti, collects shoes for thousands of children worldwide and raises guide dogs — has a connection to that Crimean nation too.

Three years ago, he taught law in the port city of Berdyansk. With that nation in the news now, he wanted to see what his Westport Sunrise Rotary Club — and its sister organization, the Westport Rotary — could do to foster the rule of law and due process.

“We wanted to give evidence that we support democratic values,” he explains.

Through a professor friend in Berdyansk, he found that the law university hoped to construct a moot courtroom where students could learn courtroom skills.

Both clubs quickly agreed to finance construction.

Nothing is easy there. But as soon as banking requirements are fulfilled, and the necessary documents are translated and executed, the project can begin.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Ukraine. But this is one unimpeachable fact: Halfway around the world, Westport is helping democracy thrive.

Ken Bernhard (left) with students in Berdyansk, Ukraine. They hold a Connecticut state flag.