Boston University School of Law

February 22, 2008


Former Supreme Court Justice Joe Nadeau (LLB '62) advances democracy in Indonesia

While most New Englanders in retirement migrate in masse to Florida to kick up their feet on the beach and hit a few balls on the green, retired New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Joe Nadeau (LLB '62) is making international rounds. Shortly following his retirement, Nadeau traveled to Indonesia to train new judges on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Code of Conduct program.

The Code of Conduct program, which falls under the larger Indonesia Control of Corruption Project (ICCP), is designed to educate and train 2,000 judges practicing under an emerging democracy. Through the program, Nadeau organized and taught hands-on workshops aimed at deciphering ethical action and perfecting what he calls the “art of judging."

“There are several reasons this work is important,” said Nadeau. “I believe there are characteristics and goals that unite all judges: the desire to be competent, to be independent, to be fair and to be respected.”

The Indonesian people participated in their first democratic election only eight years ago, earning the country’s rank as the third largest democracy. Nadeau stands to return to Indonesia in February 2008 to check the progress of its blooming democratic system and the influence of USAID programs.

Nadeau portends success. “I am excited to think that fifty or a hundred years from now someone will remember that we were in this country at the beginning of its democracy and that we worked to help insure the independence of the judiciary.”

In the past three years, Nadeau worked to improve the judiciary system in Jordan, Egypt, the Netherlands and Slovakia. In Slovakia Nadeau met with the Iraqi Supreme Court chief justice and 19 senior Iraqi judges. “The purpose was to guide the justices as they decided on articles they would recommend for the enhancement of the judicial system,” said Nadeau.

For Nadeau, to be a judge is more than power, prestige and the allure of working abroad. His essay titled “What It Means To Be a Judge” has been translated into many languages and is used in judicial education programs in the U.S. and abroad. In it he writes, “A black robe does not cloak a judge with wisdom, understanding and compassion. Those characteristics each person must bring to the bench, and continuously work to strengthen. With the robe, however, comes the responsibility to make difficult choices without fear or favor.”

Even without his black robe, Nadeau continues to embody his definition of a judge, thus keeping the all-familiar Florida itch at bay.

Reported by Lauren Shiraka