Professor Karen Hall is Director of the LL.M. program in Democratic Governance and Rule of Law and Associate Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University (ONU), and she participates frequently in JUSTRAC activities, including as a speaker in the JUSTRAC Interagency Justice Sector Training Program. Prior to joining ONU, she served for ten years with INL, where she directed the development and management of State Department assistance to the criminal justice system in Afghanistan. She has developed programs dealing with institutional development, access to justice, protection of women’s rights, anti-corruption, corrections, and legal education. She spent 2006 to 2008 living at the Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan directly managing the State Department’s criminal justice and corrections programs. She holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. in Security Studies from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and a B.A. in Russian, magna cum laude, from Brigham Young University.

In her research, Professor Hall explores various aspects of the relationship between the administration and funding of rule of law reform efforts and conditions for rule of law in recipient countries. The William and Mary Policy Review is currently publishing her article entitled “Mitigating Administrative Barriers to Successful International Rule of Law Reform.”  Currently, she is finishing an article that she presented to the National Security Section of the Association of American Law Schools entitled “Make Justice, Not War:  the Funding Nexus between National Security and International Rule of Law Reform.” It compares the U.S. civilian rule of law budget for every recipient country against conflict indices, in order to examine the use of rule of law reform as a national security tool. In her own words, the data raise interesting questions, such as “Is rule of law reform in a wartime theater the best use of funds? What types of unintended consequences occur, e.g., wartime economic bubbles, the danger of corruption?” As part of that project, she is investigating the economic effects of increasing investment in criminal law in nascent justice systems. Motivated by anecdotal evidence that over-investment in criminal law can have a chilling effect on investment in general by criminalizing commercial disputes, Professor Hall seeks to collect data in order to verify that claim.  She has identified this area as ripe for rigorous empirical research. In addition, she is exploring literature on the use of legal education as a rule of law reform activity, as well as surveying international best practices for advocates who work with traumatized youth, including in conflict situations.

In looking back on her move to academia, Professor Hall describes her motivation as stemming from a desire to facilitate sustainable rule of law reform by working with people who can be agents of positive change in their home countries. As she puts it, “the most effective rule of law reform happens when locals are directing reform. Investing in local talent and really helping people to be prepared to step up to challenges in their own countries is what [she] most wanted to accomplish in [her] career.” In her current capacity, she works with LL.M. students from a variety of countries where she can see this process unfold directly.

In thinking back to the early days of her time at INL, Professor Hall offers a piece of advice for rule of law practitioners beginning their careers in any agency: form relationships with more experienced people in the field. As she describes her experience, she “didn’t fully understand what her toolbox was at first,” and she would have benefitted from investing more time in those professional relationships early on. For a junior program officer who is already working hard just to get up to speed, or whose portfolio changes periodically, reaching out to more experienced colleagues can seem daunting or nonurgent. Professor Hall emphasizes, however, that “other people are part of a very dedicated profession, and they are thinking about the same issues deeply. Cold calling people is fine! There is a tremendous amount of thought and expertise out there.” She explains that such outreach is crucial in helping new practitioners begin to make sense of the different sub-fields within rule of law, as well as how they are inter-related. “For example,” she says,” “a problem with the administration of prison records can lead to human rights violations, but those things tend to get siloed. You tend to get siloed and then think of the world in those terms. Mandates can be broader than we sometimes choose to read them.”

JUSTRAC appreciates the contributions of experts like Professor Hall in efforts to train interagency groups of rule of law practitioners. Given her wealth of experience as a practitioner and an academic, she can speak to interagency groups of training participants in practical, relatable terms, while also encouraging them to think broadly and creatively about the issues they face in their work. JUSTRAC looks forward to having her participate in future training efforts.