In Balkans, Biden Could Use 1800s Supreme Court Case for Guidance

Marbury v. Madison established judicial restraint in young U.S. The lessons should be exported.

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Bosnia's nascent democracy can learn a lesson from the experiences of America's early struggles to define its checks and balances. The capacity for political abuse in prosecutorial discretion is manifestly present. It is no wonder that, in a population at war with itself less than 15 years ago, trust is still a rare commodity.

Sometimes, it is best to underscore one's power by refraining from exercising it. Vice President Biden can take this opportunity and encourage those at all levels of government, but especially those in the judiciary and in the federal prosecutor's office, to take actions and seek resolutions that build trust and credibility of their institutions, and avoid those that can be easily seen as political retribution.

Ralph R. Johnson is a director at Quinn Gillespie & Associates, where he serves as a registered foreign agent for the Republika Srpska. He served as the principal deputy high representative in the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo from August 1999 until July 2001. He was U.S. ambassador to Slovakia from 1996 to 1999.