gavel.jpgA delegation of judges from Morocco’s highest court said in San Francisco today that their court system is quite different from the American one, but they hope to get some ideas from the U.S. model.

“We are quite open to several international experiences, including the American experience. We want to learn as much as we can,” Judge Mohamed Khadraoui said through a translator.

The four judges from the Court of Cassation, as Morocco’s supreme court is called, are visiting the United States through the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

San Francisco was their third stop in an itinerary that has included Washington, D.C., and Reno and will end in New York. As part of their visit, they met with a small group of reporters who cover federal courts in San Francisco.

Khadraoui and colleagues Rajae el Marahi, Ali Rhezouani and Abdelkafi Waryachi said their visit is timely because the Moroccan judicial system was reformed in a new constitution approved by the nation’s voters in July.

The new constitution was proposed by a council appointed by King Mohammed VI in the wake of last year’s tumultuous “Arab Spring” protests in the Middle East and North Africa. In Morocco, the protests took the form of demonstrations but not uprisings.

The visiting judges, who included one woman and three men, all between the ages of 32 and 42, said the new constitution increases the independence of the judiciary.

“Our slogan now is that the judicial system is in the service of the citizens. We are emphasizing rebuilding confidence between the judicial system and citizens,” Khadraoui said.

The Court of Cassation has a total of 206 judges, the delegation said. Unlike the federal and state supreme courts in the United States, which take up only a fraction of the cases appealed to them, the Moroccan court hears all the appeals submitted to it.

Each case is heard by a panel of between five and 10 judges, depending on the nature of the case, the visitors said.

The judges said Moroccan law, as set by Parliament, combines concepts from Napoleonic, German and Islamic law. Family law in particular is governed by Islamic sharia law. But appeals of all types of cases, including family law cases, go to the Court of Cassation.

One exception, however, is that new constitution establishes a special Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of laws.

Judicial appointments and discipline of judges continue to be carried out by a Higher Council of the Judicial Branch, headed by the king. But the visitors said that in an effort to separate the judicial and executive branches, the council is now led by the chief judge of the Court of Cassation rather than the minister of justice.

The visitors said they have also been learning about American society on their trip and have liked what they have seen.

“We’ve learned a lot of new stuff about American society. It changed our views of American society and the American people in a very positive way,” Khadraoui said through the translator.

Khadraoui, who headed the delegation, noted that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a new nation in 1777.

“We would like to see this relationship moving forward to better serve both nations,” he said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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