OASIS Program

The Oral Adversarial Skill-building and Immersion Seminar (OASIS) program was funded in late 2014 by the U.S. State Department. This project provides significantly greater resources and requires a much greater organizational capacity to successfully train Mexican attorneys and law professors to help implement the new criminal justice system. Under OASIS, Justice in Mexico was able to hire new personnel and expand our reach and influence in ways that greatly benefited the overall mission of the organization. In September 2015, we received notification that this program will receive continued U.S. State Department funding over the next two years, thereby helping us to sustain our impact.

OASIS has three specific objectives that will continue to guide Justice in Mexico’s efforts during years two and three of its partnership with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México School of Law (UNAM):

1) provide three 40-hour litigation workshops to law professors and students of UNAM School of Law

2) provide three training/study tours to the United States

3) provide one international symposium on oral, adversarial, accusatory criminal justice systems, Mexico’s criminal justice reforms, and the role law schools will play in the transition to this new criminal justice system.

Highlights from 2016

OASIS completed three two week (40 hour) workshops during the months of February, March, and April at the UNAM.  Over 220 UNAM law school professors and students were trained how to use oral litigation techniques (e.g., interrogatories, cross examination) in anticipation of the country’s switch to live court proceedings this year. The trainings took place in the evening to allow professors and students to attend after their daily activities.

The 40-hour course offered in each of the  trainings covered oral trial skills and techniques. The trainings were provided by 19 attorneys, including Al Amado, Tony DaSilva, Luis Guerrero, Claudio Pavlic (Chilean national), Carlos Espinoza Vidal (Chilean national), Celeste Higgins, Leonardo Moreno (Chilean national), Thomas Nares, Rachel Carey, Carmen Adriana Blanco (Colombia national), Iker Ibarreche (Mexican national), Bertha Alcalde (Mexican national), Gabriela Ortiz (Mexican national), Michael Mandig, Jorge Gutierrez Muñoz (Mexican national), Peter Mitchell, Victor Torres, Pablo Hector González Villalobos (Mexican national), and Janice Deaton. Mexican, Chilean and Colombian nationals with substantial training experience were included to provide local and regional perspective.

Our 2016 trainings placed great emphasis on trial skills practice. OASIS instructors presented all trial skills topics from theory of the case through closing arguments at the plenary sessions. These presentations were followed by a minimum of two hours of practice sessions for the eight small groups. In addition to the practice sessions for direct and cross-examination, we held an additional workshop to focus on impeachment and refreshing recollection.

The first week of the course began with a discussion on the reasons behind and the potential benefits of the 2008 Constitutional Reform. This presentation was by a Mexican legal expert, Iker Ibarreche. The second week began with a presentation on the impact of the transition in Chile from a mixed system to an oral, adversarial system. Our instructors, Claudio Pavlic (March) and Carlos Espinoza (April), discussed the overall impact of the transition on rule of law in Chile, including the impact on Chilean society and its confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system in general. Each applied his findings to what might be expected in Mexico. This discussion drew a great deal of questions and animated discussion from all the participants.

On the last day of each training, all participants participated in a “mock” trial. They experienced a trial from start to finish, with 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 Training Course Director, Janice Deaton, placed more emphasis on practice sessions at the UNAM courses and moved the “Train the Trainer” portion to the study trips in San Diego, Boston, and San Francisco in 2016.

Justice in Mexico began the second phase of the OASIS program second year of activities by delivering a two-week study trip from June 2-15, 2016 held at the University of San Diego. This was the first of three study trips to be conducted between June and August 2016. The study trip program activities included daily sessions covering the different stages of the American legal system and group discussions to prepare for and debrief after site visits. During their two weeks in San Diego, the UNAM group participated in a series of “Train the Trainer” workshops with OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton as well as special sessions with Judge Chris Whitten, prosecutors Gregg McClain and José Castillo, pretrial services officer Charlene Delgado, Baja California Judge Luciano Angulo, and Deputy Attorney General Anthony da Silva. Site visits included meetings with relevant justice system administrators including public defenders Monique Carter and Mary Jo Barr at the Public Defender’s Office, attending actual trials and having meetings with Judge Jeff Barton and Judge Luis Vargas, visiting the San Diego Attorney General’s Office, hearing an appeal argued by Deputy Attorney General Anthony da Silva as well as debrief meeting with him afterward.

OASIS participants also attended “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” international conference, co-hosted by Justice in Mexico and the USD School of Law, on June 10th.  The conference consisted of opening remarks, multiple panels as well as a keynote luncheon. Opening remarks were given by Dr. David Shirk, Dean Stephen Ferruolo, and Justin Bird (vice president of Sempra Energy).  Dr. Héctor Díaz Santana, director of Mexico’s Inter-Institutional Coordination of the Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System’s Technical Secretariat (SETEC), inaugurated the conference by offering an overview of what brought about the reform and what have been the challenges to its implementation. The recurring themes from the first panel, “From the Bench: Judges’ Take on Justice Reform,” included the newly acquired responsibilities of judges, the importance of training judges, and the role of the California Judges Association in allowing California judges the opportunity to collaborate with Mexican judges during this transition. Panelists included Mexican state supreme court justices Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court). The second panel, focused on the topic of anti-corruption efforts in Mexico. Panelists included Peter Ainsworth, senior anti-corruption counsel of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, associate researcher at México Evalúa, and Benjamin Hill, head of the new Specialized Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Prevention Office of the Mexican Federal Government. The last panel, “Improving the Administration of Justice,” reflected on the themes of capacity-building and training, U.S.-Mexico partnership, and institutional independence. Panelists included Miguel Sarre Inguíniz, professor at Instituto Tecnológico de México (ITAM), Ray Allan Gattinella, senior legal advisor for the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development of the Department of Justice, Luciano Angulo Espinoza, judge for the state of Baja California, and Robert Ciaffa, U.S. federal prosecutor. During the keynote luncheon, conference attendees first heard from William Ostick, U.S. Consul General in Tijuana who gave some comments and introduced Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, a member of the Federal Judiciary Council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal).

From July 4 to July 15, six faculty members and four students from the  UNAM School of Law (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Facultad de Derecho) were selected to participate in the second of three study trips to the United States in order to learn about the U.S. Criminal Justice System as a part of the Oral-Adversarial Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS).  During their visit to Boston, UNAM faculty and students had the opportunity to meet and learn from prominent public officials and legal experts in the Boston community such as former Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans, prosecutor John Capin, defense attorney and Harvard professor Andrew Crespo, DOJ Assistant Deputy Bruce Ohr, Director of the Organized Crime division for the U.S. Attorney Generals Office Cynthia Young, prosecutor Ted Merritt, District Judge Patti Saris, defense attorney Martin Weinberg, and federal prosecutor Fred M. Wyshak Jr.

From August 1 to August 12, seven faculty members and four students from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) School of Law were selected to participate in the third of three study trips to the United States in order to learn about the U.S. criminal justice system as part of the Oral-Adversarial Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS). During their visit to San Francisco, UNAM faculty and students had the opportunity to meet and learn from prominent public officials and legal experts in the San Francisco community such as California Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, UC Berkeley Professor Saira Mohamed, UC Berkeley Professor Andrea Roth, UC Berkeley Professor Charles “Chuck” Weisselberg, UC Berkeley Law School Interim Dean Mellissa Murray, University of San Francisco (USF) School of Law Professor Connie de la Vega, USF School of Law Dean John Trasviña, prosecutor Phil Kearney, defense attorney Geoff Hansen, District Judge Edward Chen, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler, Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, Stanford University Professor of Political Science Alberto Díaz-Cayeros, Stanford Law School Former Dean and Professor Emeritus (active) Paul Brest, Stanford Law School Professor of the Practice of Law Erik Jensen, Stanford University Associate Professor of Political Science Beatriz Magaloni, Stanford Law School Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights Beth van Schaack, US Probation Officer James Schloetter, and Pretrial Services Deputy Chief Silvio Lugo.

On September 8-9, Justice in Mexico’s Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) co-hosted the second International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems with UNAM School of Law in Mexico City. Over the course of the two-day symposium, the public audience was able to engage with 24 international and national presenters. Four panels were organized on the following subjects: 1) Human Rights and Civil Rights in Mexico and the United States; 2) Civic Initiatives for the New Criminal Justice System in Mexico; 3) critical perspectives of the New Criminal Justice System, and 4) The New Criminal Justice System in Action.  Symposium attendees also had the opportunity to engage with keynote speaker, Mexican Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz. Over 500 students, faculty, and community members and officials attended to learn about the successes, challenges, and next steps for Mexico’s comprehensive justice reform.

Highlights from 2015

Highlights from 2015 include training 240 UNAM law school professors and students who practiced use and teach oral litigation techniques (e.g., interrogatories, cross examination) necessary to practice criminal law after the 2008 judicial reform that instituted oral adversarial trials in Mexico. The 40-hour course offered in each of the trainings covered oral trial skills and techniques and “train the trainer” techniques, focused on ensuring that participants would be able to replicate aspects of the course, especially important for law professors at UNAM, one of the premier law schools in the country.

In addition, of the 240 participant pool, 37 of UNAM’s top law school professors and students were able to visit the United States and gain first hand knowledge about the U.S. criminal justice system through attending live court proceedings and talking directly with relevant justice system actors, both federal and local, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and criminal trial and appeals attorneys. From understanding the processes of pretrial and trial, to the role of the jury, to preparing the witnesses, to providing an effective cross-examination, to examining the plea agreement and the process of discovery, study trip participants explored all aspects of the U.S. adversarial system, which has common aspects with the new criminal justice system in Mexico. The first study tour was completed in Washington D.C. at American University in June, the second in Boston, MA at Harvard University in July, and the final took place in late July at the University of San Diego. Testimonials from Study Trip Participants 2015 can be found here.

On September 24-25, 2015, Justice in Mexico’s OASIS co-hosted the International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems with UNAM’s Law School in Mexico City. In an impressive turnout, over 700 students, faculty, and local community members and officials attended the two-day symposium on the progress and goals of Mexico’s comprehensive justice reform. The symposium served as the conclusion to OASIS’s yearlong training and education program. The symposium at UNAM evaluated the success of OASIS’s activities and the justice reform in general while also identifying future training and infrastructure needs in order to maintain the reform’s growing momentum in Mexico.

Of the twelve law students who were invited to the United States study trips in 2015, seven of them joined UNAM’s new moot court team created in 2015. The team won first place at the National competition in Guadalajara and second place at the international University competition in Argentina in December 2015. The team and their coaches (also OASIS instructors Gabriela Ortiz and Iker Ibarreche) are planning an intra-collegiate competition in scholastic year 2016-2017. The expectation is to raise interest in oral trial skills and improve skills at UNAM.