03/11/15 – From February 16-28, 2015, the Justice in Mexico program based at the University of San Diego’s Department of Political Science and International Relations hosted the first training of the project Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS), at the Law School of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City. The inauguration of the training program on February 16 included the participation of Alfonso Del Valle, Rule of Law Program Coordinator, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, U.S. State Department, Dra. Ma Leoba Castañeda Rivas, Dean of the Law School at UNAM, Dra. María de los Ángeles Fromow, Assistant Secretary for Implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Secretaría Técnica del Consejo de Coordinación para la Implementación del Sistema de Justicia Penal, SETEC) Dr. Rodrigo Archundia Barrientos, Assistant Attorney General, Regional Control, Criminal Procedures and Injunctions, Mexican Attorney General’s Office, (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), Carlos Barragán Salvatierra, UNAM Law Professor and Director of the Criminal Law Seminar, and David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico.
The trainings involved a 40-hour course provided by U.S. trained attorneys, including Al Amado, Rachel Carey, Jesus Romero, Carlos Varela, Michael Mandig, Juan García de Acevedo, Peter Mitchell, Janice Deaton. The majority of instructors were U.S. nationals, but some Mexican nationals with substantial training experience were included to provide local perspective. This local perspective proved particularly valuable in adapting the course materials to Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) —especially the New Uniform Code of Criminal Procedure—and establishing rapport with participants.
The participants included over 80 UNAM law school professors and students who are learning how to use and teach oral litigation techniques (e.g., interrogatories, cross examination) in anticipation of the country’s switch to live court proceedings in 2016. The trainings took place in the evening to allow professors and students to attend after their daily activities.
The 40-hour course covered every aspect of oral trial skills and techniques and also introduced “train the trainer” techniques. During the first week, it focused on oral litigation skills and the second week, on ensuring that participants would be able to replicate aspects of the course, a process known as “Training the Trainers.” On the last day of the course, all 80 participants participated in a “mock trial.” They got to experience a trial from start to finish, with the OASIS instructors serving as the judge in a case of alleged domestic violence. Following the mock trial, the participants and instructors met for a final plenary session where they shared an open exchange of ideas, reflections on the importance of the course, and a discussion of the course’s impact on their impressions of the overall judicial reform.
The OASIS program is coordinated by Justice in Mexico, a long-standing rule of law initiative based at the University of San Diego. The program is intended to provide trainings to advance the implementation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system. Its aim is to foster exchanges among U.S. and Mexican law professors and students in an effort to improve understanding and cooperation within the legal profession. The program will assist in Mexico’s transition to a new oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice system by helping to develop knowledge and skills in the development of statements, presentation of evidence at trial, and other oral advocacy skills. OASIS forms part of the Mérida Initiative, a multi-billion dollar effort by the U.S. government to cooperate with Mexico in combating crime and violence, promoting judicial reform, improving border security, and strengthening civil society.
To read more about the program, go to the OASIS website: www.justiceinmexico.org/oasis-program.