NYSBA Ukraine Task Force: From the Rule of Law to Rules of War

The Ukraine Task Force (UTF), created by the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) in cooperation with the Ukrainian Bar Association, has been operating for over a year now. One of the tasks of this group at the time of its creation was, in particular, the provision of assistance by foreign lawyers to Ukrainian colleagues in strengthening the rule of law in Ukraine. However, literally from the first days of its existence, the UTF was forced to change its goals and respond to unprecedented challenges caused by full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine. NYSBA told about what the UTF achieved this year in the articleNYSBA Ukraine Task Force: From the Rule of Law to Rules of War”.

The history of the UTF began in December 2021 when the NYSBA International Section and UBA signed a Memorandum of Understanding, the purpose of which was to establish cooperation between two associations and offer benefits and opportunities for Ukrainian lawyers. On the basis of the UBA, the NYSBA chapter in Ukraine was established, and to effectuate the goals of the new chapter, the NYSBA Ukraine Task Force was formed.

Serhiy Hoshovsky, Chairman of the Eastern Europe Committee of the NYSBA International, was appointed to co-chair the UTF, and Deborah Kay was appointed secretary. The group also included Sheryl Galler, then Chair of the NYSBA Women in Law Section, and Kim Wolfe Price, Galler's successor as Section Chair.

The first meeting of the Ukraine Task Force was held virtually on February 17, 2022, and a week later, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Against the backdrop of the sudden change in circumstances, the task force continued to meet regularly to explore how to support Ukraine during the war and assist the advocacy of the UBA.

"Our new connections made the war feel personal even for those of us without relatives [in Ukraine]," the NYSBA says. There they recall how they worried for the safety of Inna Liniova, the UBA executive director, when she was forced to leave Kyiv, and later Ukraine. And Anna Dombrovska, the Wardynski & Partners partner and co-chair of NYSBA’s Poland chapter, invited Ukrainian refugees, including a mother and baby, to stay in her home.

After the full-scale Russian invasion began, the NYSBA released a statement in support of Ukraine and the rule of law and called on others to follow. At the UBA’s request, the UTF members used their connections to encourage bar associations around the world to issue their own similar statements.

Over the next few weeks, the UTF expanded its tasks and formed groups that specialized in:

1) providing guidance on the sanctions imposed on Russia and its companies and citizens;

2) providing advocacy and immigration assistance for Ukrainian refugees, residents and immigrants in Europe, Canada, Poland, Moldova, Germany, Ireland, the United States and elsewhere;

3) collecting information regarding charities and resources to assist Ukraine, including guides in multiple languages;

4) providing guidance on the collection of evidence of war crimes and other preparations for Ukraine to bring claims against Russia in international tribunals;

5) helping Ukrainian attorneys find remote jobs in other jurisdictions;

6) coordinating large swaths of law school volunteers for research on myriad projects relating to the invasion.

NYSBA helped promote the task force’s efforts through articles and press releases, and by creating a resource page with links to international statements against the invasion, international resources on sanctions, lists of charities collecting for Ukraine, plus news articles and updates.

Over time, the UTF has grown to more than 70 people as it has welcomed additional NYSBA members and staff, representatives of other bar associations in the U.S. and abroad, and representatives of law firms and pro bono legal services organizations.

NYSBA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Global Accountability Network (GAN), founded by Professor David Crane. Professor Crane established a GAN Ukraine Task Force for crime dossiers on Putin and Russia on incitement to genocide against the Ukrainians by creating a conflict map, determining the most responsible parties, and drafting a white paper. The memorandum of understanding with the GAN UTF will commence work on similar reports with respect to crimes committed by Russia and others in Ukraine.

"We are honored to be part of this important project but hope that the task force can soon return to its original long-term goals: to provide advice and guidance to the legal profession and the judiciary in Ukraine concerning the protection of the rule of law, professional and judicial ethics, best practices in the legal profession and the judiciary, and the greater involvement of young lawyers and women lawyers in the legal profession. We hope that the war will end soon, and that Ukraine can begin to heal and rebuild. Meanwhile, we hope and pray for the safety of our friends and colleagues at the Ukrainian Bar Association, their families and fellow citizens," the NYSBA emphasized.

You can find the full version of the article on the NYSBA website via this link.

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