Fulbright Sends|L.A. Judge to Albania

      LOS ANGELES (CN) – As a recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award, Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger says he hopes to rekindle his interest in the Balkans when he becomes the first sitting U.S. judge to teach Albanian law students at Tirana University.
     This year, 400 academics and professionals have joined the program. In the past, only a handful of judges have been selected.
     It will be Czuleger’s third visit to the Balkan nation. He was introduced to the country by his son, Eric, who taught English in Albania as a Peace Corps volunteer.
     In a telephone interview, Czuleger enthused about the country and its people.
     “I’m very excited by the opportunity and I’m looking forward to really spending more time with the Albanian people,” the judge said. “I’ve literally been all over the world, and they are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.”
     After his first visit, Czuleger returned to Albania for a road trip with his wife, thriller novelist Rebecca Forster, driving northwest from the capital to the bordering country, Montenegro.
     Though his son Eric is fluent in Albanian, Czuleger said he has not mastered the language.
     Fortunately for the judge, Albanian students are required to learn English before entering graduate programs.
     “If it were just me trying to get by in Albanian, it would be a very short lecture,” the judge said.
     Czuleger was “rostered” into the program last fall after a six-month application process. He could have accepted an invitation through the Fulbright program but decided to look for his own placement.
     “Since I had an interest in the Balkans in general and had been to Albania, I decided I would only inquire into Albania,” Czuleger said.
     Tirana University’s School of Law invited Czuleger to teach in the capital.
     The judge will teach law students about the U.S. Constitution, and criminal and civil law and procedure. He was accepted into the program in August and will teach Mondays to Thursdays beginning in mid-October.
     He also intends to indulge his interest in the Balkans.
     As well as traveling to the southern part of the country, Czuleger said he would take a few days to drive up to Dubrovnik in Croatia.
     His wife is planning on working on another novel during their stay. The fifth book in her “Witness” series is set in Albania.
     Judge Czuleger lives in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. His other son Alex is a talent manager with management company, The Green Room. Eric is a blogger and author of the novel “Immortal L.A.”
     But the judge said he does not possess his family’s “creative gene.”
     “I leave that to my two sons and my wife. My job is to provide medical insurance,” Czuleger said.
     Depending on how his first experience in the program goes, Czuleger said he would consider reapplying to the program in a few years.
     “I do like to travel the world and it would be interesting and fun to take a Fulbright in my favorite city, Paris, or London or Florence,” Czuleger said. “But you know, I think it’s a much more rewarding experience to go somewhere that’s a little more remote or inaccessible. And Albania certainly fits that bill.”

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