The Robert H. Jackson Center has been committed to spreading the legacy of Justice Jackson since its inception in 2001. Under new leadership, the Jackson Center looks to continue widening its reach, bringing its influence to a national, and even international level.
Earlier this year, James C. Johnson was appointed to serve as the president of the Jackson Center. Johnson, who relocated to Jamestown from Nebraska, served as the chief of prosecutions for the Special Court of Sierra Leone. He previously served as a professor at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School, as legal adviser to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and in various operational assignments in the U.S. Army.
"From the time that we've moved here and started working with the community, my wife and I have enjoyed this region," said Johnson. "We've found the community to be very welcoming and they've accepted us, which has been wonderful. In a very short time it's come to where we feel that we're a part of the community. There have been a lot of new faces in a very short period of time, but again, everyone has received us warmly and it's great to be here."
James C. Johnson, Robert H. Jackson Center president, works at his desk.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
In regard to the Jackson Center, Johnson said that he knew a lot about the the work that had been conducted with respect to the international side of Jackson's life and the programs that the center had conducted over the years in regards to his role as the Nuremberg prosecutor.
"In many respects, Jackson is the architect of modern international law," said Johnson. "What he created in Nuremberg is very much the model that the international tribunals are based on today. In that respect, I was very familiar with Jackson and his role in Nuremberg and the things that he did."
Jackson's time as an international prosecutor is only a small portion of his role in the world of law, however. Jackson was man that grew up with very humble beginnings, went to school in Frewsburg, spent a year in Jamestown for high school, went through one year of law school, and then came to hold some of the highest legal positions in the country and the world.
"I've been learning how to take the work that he did on the Supreme Court and bring it into today and to show why the work that he did is as relevant now as it was when he was doing it," said Johnson. "The Jackson Center spent its first 10 years teaching people about who Jackson was, the man that he was. We hope in the future now to take that and to teach the relevance of Jackson today, both in the sense of a man that could come from humble beginnings and do anything, as well as his decisions in the world of law."
The Jackson Center is moving forward with several education initiatives which are devoted to bringing Jackson and the lessons from his body of work into classrooms. Joseph Karb and Drew Beiter, Robert H. Jackson Center education directors, have been working to develop teaching modules that bring Jackson into the middle school classroom. These modules take lessons in war crimes, genocide and humanity from Jackson and use them to teach middle school students.
"We're starting out with his role as the Nuremberg prosecutor and showing how that has impacted international criminal justice today," said Johnson. "Our next step will be to expand that into his work on the U.S. Supreme Court. It's a phased initiative and we're starting with schools in Western New York. We've been holding workshops to give the teachers the tools that they need to bring the lessons of Jackson into the classroom, too. Last summer we gave an award to a local teacher for bringing Jackson into the classroom, and next year we will be teaming up with the National Social Studies Association to make that award national."
According to Johnson, the Jackson Center has also started developing partnerships with colleges and universities. Already able to include Allegheny College, Case Western Law School and Syracuse Law School as partners, the Jackson Center will be looking to expand to other regional institutions, as well.
"We have a tremendous archive here at the Jackson Center that students can benefit from, whether they're looking for videos, personal papers or law materials," said Johnson. "We're a resource for colleges and universities to learn about Jackson, the Supreme Court and international prosecutions. We're also looking to develop and expand our intern programs so that students can come to the Jackson Center to learn more about the relevance of Jackson in today's world."
With a message that reaches far beyond the Western New York region, the Jackson Center is now looking to take that message and the lessons of Jackson to an international level. These efforts will work to expand the Jackson Center's presence in the international law community through events like the International Law Dialogs, as well as talking to international prosecutors to see what other ways it can assist them in their work. According to Johnson, this means that in the future, the Jackson Center could even see involvement in assisting in the training and certification of prosecutors.
"There's so much that we can do," said Johnson. "I don't know that for an institution as young as the Jackson Center, that you could find a comparable institution that has done as much as they have here. We're looking forward to expanding on that. We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us, but I'm as excited about the future of the Jackson Center as anyone has ever been, I think. It took the vision of Greg Peterson as one of the co-founders to bring the Jackson Center to where it is today, and my goal is to continue to move the Jackson Center forward."