Mr. James Filpi is currently Senior Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP). CLDP works to improve the legal environment for doing business by advising political, judicial, and commercial leaders in reforming policies and laws in countries around the world.
Before working for the U.S. Government, Mr. Filpi developed expertise as a corporate attorney. After the events of September 11, he saw a need for expertise in commercial law in the public sector. As he explains, “Poverty causes crime and extremism. Economic opportunity is more attractive than conflict. Building economies will lead to prosperity and less propensity for conflict.” Mr. Filpi has worked extensively with governments in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia to assist them in updating their domestic business statutes and to advise them on meeting requirements to join international free trade agreements. For example, Mr. Filpi has advised officials in Afghanistan on building effective commercial arbitration. He has also advised the governments of Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar on their efforts to reform their corporate governance codes and conform to international commercial law standards.
Mr. Filpi notes that it is sometimes difficult to attribute improvements in the rule of law to specific programs or reform efforts, but he highlights Algeria as an example in which CLDP made a tangible difference in strengthening the rule of law via the commercial sector. Algeria has experienced ongoing difficulties with counterfeiting, but the country’s attorneys and judges lack expertise in combatting intellectual property saboteurs. In many instances, judges refuse to except cases out of hesitation to engage in an area of law in which they feel unprepared. CLDP developed a program in partnership with the George Washington University Law School in which approximately 30 Algerian judges received training at GW Law on how to manage intellectual property cases. Later, a judge who had attended the intellectual property training presided over a case in which an Algerian business sued a counterfeiter, and the judge found against the counterfeiter. The decision served as a major deterrent to counterfeiters in Algeria, as evidenced by subsequent reduction of counterfeit items on the Algerian market. The presiding judge said she would not have had the technical competence to hear the case had she not attended the CLDP training.
Mr. Filpi strives to work with actors both inside and outside of government to advance rule of law development, as evidenced by his service as Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Middle East Committee and participation as an associate member of the Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity. He says that he enjoys participating in JUSTRAC events because of the Program’s focus on interagency coordination, an essential element for the success of CLDP’s programs. He notes that effective communications between agencies in needed to address rule of law issues, because each agency has a tendency to “look at problems through the lens of the specific tools that they have.” The Rule of Law Collaborative is appreciative of the experienced practitioners like Mr. Filpi who share their diverse perspectives at JUSTRAC training events in order to improve coordination in rule of law development efforts.