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Checks and Balances

Abdurrahman Güner LL.M.’14 Helps Turkey Transition to a Presidential System of Government

Abdurraham Gunder LL.M.'14 with his daughter Asude Zelal, who was born in Syracuse, NY

The first Turkish student to study a Master of Laws at Syracuse, having learned about Syracuse University from friends in his home country, Abdurrahman Güner is a pioneer in more ways than one.

Arriving in Syracuse in fall 2013, Güner was sponsored in the US by the Turkish Prime Ministry, where he was employed as  a legislative expert. After graduating in 2014, Güner returned to the ministry, but this office closed in 2017 when Turkey’s Constitution was amended and a new presidential system was created for the country, one similar to the United States’ federal model of government.

But that did not mean that Güner was out of a job. With his Syracuse training in US constitutional law in hand, he became one of a team of legal experts who assisted in this monumental constitutional transition. Now that’s something to tell the grandchildren!

Today, Güner is one of four vice presidents of the Laws and Resolutions Presidency of the Turkish National Assembly, a body that, like the US Congress, is charged with passing laws.

Could you describe your current work at the Turkish National Assembly?

In general, the unit where I work provides expert legal services to assist the law-making process and to audit laws for members of parliament (MPs), commissions, and the General Assembly.

The office’s main duties are to prepare draft laws proposed by MPs, to scrutinize law proposals submitted to the Turkish National Assembly by MPs in terms of compliance with the law-making process, and to prepare and update laws and resolutions adopted in the General Assembly.

To what extent did your American law training help with your work on Turkish Constitutional reform?

At the time the Turkish Constitution was amended, I was working as a legislative expert at the Prime Ministry. As a consequence of the change, the vast majority of Turkish laws had to be updated according to the new system, and I worked as an expert for this intensive work.

During this process, I saw clear benefits to having studied US law. For one, the US created the presidential system of government. I took constitutional law courses at Syracuse in which I learned the main features of the system as well as the dynamics among the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches. Being trained in constitutional law in a country where this system is practiced helped me a lot when working on behalf of the Turkish reforms.

How would you describe the similarities and differences between Turkish and American law?

There are some significant differences between the Turkish and American legal systems. In terms of legal traditions, Turkey belongs to the civil law tradition while the US practices common law, so in the US case law is of primary importance, while in Turkey codified statutes predominate.

"My advice to those who want to study law in America is to leave all the hesitations aside and seize this unique experience!"

This difference is reflected in legal education. For example, a law student learns statutes and rules in Turkey, while he or she learns cases in the US. So I had a little foreignness at first; for example, I had to learn how to summarize a case. However, the education I received at Syracuse was designed to detect, analyze, and eliminate these differences. With the support of both professors and professionals, such as Assistant Dean of International Programs Andrew Horsfall, these difficulties could easily be overcome.

On the other hand, regardless of legal system, modern law has some universal general rules.

What advice do you have for a foreign lawyer wishing to study law in the US?

Studying in America offers a wonderful experience that might not be achieved in any other way. This experience includes both the opportunity to have contact with people from different cultures and for studying in the world’s most prestigious educational institutions. Thus, students have the opportunity to develop their own potential and to learn about the world.

My advice to those who want to study law in America is to leave all the hesitations aside and seize this unique experience!

What are some of the things you miss about Syracuse?

What I miss most about Syracuse is its natural beauty, especially in the spring and fall. It’s a great pleasure to see all the colors of the trees and to see the city with a harmonious combination of colors during these seasons.

Besides, Syracuse is a special place for me and my wife. Our first child was born in the city; therefore, we have an emotional connection with it. I’m waiting for my daughter to grow up to visit Syracuse again. I promised her we will.