UNAM Law School professors and students participate in OASIS San Diego international study trip


OASIS San Diego participants at closing ceremony with Dr. David Shirk, UNAM Dean Raul Juan Contreras, UNAM professor and OASIS representative Trilce Ovilla, UNAM Law School graduate and OASIS field coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, and UNAM Professor Miguel Gonzaález.

OASIS San Diego participants at closing ceremony with Dr. David Shirk, Octavio Rodríguez, UNAM Dean Raul Juan Contreras, UNAM professor and OASIS representative Trilce Ovilla, UNAM Law School graduate and OASIS field coordinator Alfredo Ramírez Percastre, and UNAM Professor Miguel González.

06/24/2016 (written by msmith) – Seven faculty and three students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico Law School (UNAM) were chosen to participate in a two-week study trip to learn about the U.S. criminal justice system. Called the Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS), this study trip was made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as part of the Mérida Initiative. During their two weeks in San Diego, the UNAM visitors participated in a series of workshops with OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton as well as special sessions with Judge Chris Whitten, prosecutors Gregg McClain and José Castillo, public defenders Monique Carter and Mary Jo Barr, pretrial services officer Charlene Delgado, Judge Jeff Barton, Baja California Judge Luciano Angulo, Judge Luis Vargas, and Deputy Attorney General Anthony da Silva.

State prosecutor Gregg McClain presents to OASIS participants.

State prosecutor Gregg McClain presents to OASIS participants.

On their first official day, June 3rd, participants participated in an opening ceremony led by Dr. David Shirk (Director, Justice in Mexico), Dean Stephen Ferruolo (USD Law School) and Dean Noelle Norton (USD College of Arts and Sciences). Afterwards, participants listened to state prosecutor Gregg McClain who discussed the organization of the state prosecution system. McClain described the role of the prosecutor as well as the way the justice system is set up for transparency to give people confidence in the system. He mentioned that this transparency backfires sometimes since it allows for criticism from the public and from the media. Mr. McClain also spoke about a prosecutor’s responsibility to protect the public while also being fair to the defendant and the victim. Finally, Mr. McClain said his job was not just to put people away but to try to get to know the accused in order to determine if they are opportunistic or dangerous, driven by drugs or antisocial. Depending on the person and cause of the crime committed, Mr. McClain emphasized the broad range of sentences that can be supported by the prosecutor’s office including finishing their GED/college degree or going to a drug rehabilitation center.

Federal prosecutor José Castillo speaks to OASIS study trip participants.

Federal prosecutor José Castillo speaks to OASIS study trip participants.

Federal prosecutor Jose Castillo spoke to participants in the afternoon about the differences between the U.S. Attorney’s office and the state prosecutor’s office.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office represents the United States in federal cases, meaning they arise from federal law created by Congress. These cases are heard in federal courthouses throughout the country. State and local prosecutors (whether the district attorney, county/city prosecutor, or the state attorney general’s office), by contrast, represent the state for cases arising under state law, created by each state legislature. Occasionally, federal and state law may overlap in a certain area, allowing both federal and state prosecutors to pursue the case. Mr. Castillo also spoke about the 4th amendment (protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government), 5th amendment (protection against self-incrimination), and 6th amendment (guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you). Mr. Castillo also discussed briefly the juror system and the mandates under which jurors must operate.

On Saturday, June 4th, participants watched a specially edited version of the 1979 ABC documentary, “The Shooting of Big Man: Anatomy of a Criminal Case,” based on a Harvard law research project by Harvard Law School alum and Seattle criminal defense attorney Eric Saltzman. Professor Allen Snyder led discussions following the film focused on such topics as how the argument of self-defense was a key factor in determining the outcome of the case as well as the important role of preparing the defendant for cross-examination. Afterwards, OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton guided participants in the first of two “Train the Trainer” sessions offering insights on how to be an effective teacher of oral trial skills and give a constructive critique to students.

Charlene Delgado discusses pretrial services with OASIS study trip participants.

Charlene Delgado discusses pretrial services with OASIS study trip participants.

On June 6th, participants visited the downtown San Diego branch of the public defenders office and heard from two criminal defense attorneys, Mary Jo Barr and Monique Carter. Monique discussed the different level of crimes (infractions, misdemeanors, felonies), the process a public defender goes through with their client, as well as the life of a criminal case. Mary Jo Barr emphasized there is a misperception of the public defender’s only representing  the poorest of the poor. Instead, Ms. Barr argued it is very difficult for people to retain private council and that the public defender’s office represents over 80% of people charged with crimes- both misdemeanors and felonies.  In the afternoon, participants met with pretrial services officer Charlene Delgado.  Pretrial services help prepare cases for trial in court. The process has three functions: to collect and analyze defendant information for use in determining risk, to make recommendations to the court concerning conditions of release, and to watch defendants while being released from secure custody during the pretrial phase. The function of these services is to reduce the jail population and also help people to get back to their normal lives after being released.

On June 7th, participants visited the San Diego Superior Court and were given the opportunity to experience what reporting to jury duty is like as well as sit in on various courtroom proceedings. Participants listened to the opening statements and presentation of the People’s case for a DUI trial in Judge Majors-Lewis courtroom and also observed various witnesses called in for their testimony in relation to a murder trial in Judge O’Neill’s courtroom.  Participants also sat in on a mental health trial that focused on a sexual assault case in Judge David Gill’s room. Judge Gill also took a 20 minute recess in order to speak with the OASIS group. Participants were able to ask questions regarding his role as a judge, jury selection, as well as details about the specific case they had just heard.  In the afternoon, participants met with Judge Luis Vargas to reflect on what they had observed and ask questions.  Major topics discussed included the three strikes law in California that impacted sentencing and also limited the discretion of the judge in deciding a sentence, plea bargains and the prosecutor’s discretion in determining the plea bargain, questions during cross-examination, and objections.

Arizona Judge Chris Whitten (Maricopa County) discusses negotiations with OASIS study trip participants.

Arizona Judge Chris Whitten (Maricopa County) discusses negotiations with OASIS study trip participants.

On June 8th, participants met with Arizona civil and tax court judge Chris Whitten who took participants through a mock readiness hearing. A readiness hearing is a hearing in front of the judge with the prosecutor and defense attorney present where the parties decide if the case is going to trial, continued or some plea bargain reached. Participants also heard from Judge Whitten on the limiting amount of power judges now have when prosecutors are given so much control with the plea agreements. Participants also met with prosecutor Lisa Rodríguez who discussed alternatives to incarceration. Ms. Rodríguez spoke at length about the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 as well as Prop. 47 that took effect in 2014.  Both the Realignment Act as well as Prop. 47 transformed the criminal justice system by reducing the prison population, recidivism, and prison spending.  Prop. 47 reduces simple drug possession crimes to misdemeanors, reduces many thefts to misdemeanors, requires resentencings, and overall has redirected state prison spending to 10% to Victim Trauma Recovery Centers, 25% to K-12, and 65% for grants for mental health, substance abuse, and diversion.  Ms. Rodríguez also discussed pretrial programs including electronic monitoring in lieu of bail as well as post-sentencing custodial alternatives (county parole, home detention, residential reentry center, work furlough).

Dr. David Shirk moderates first panel of "Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico" international conference. Panelists include State supreme court justice Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), State supreme court justice Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court)

Dr. David Shirk moderates first panel of “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” international conference. Panelists include State supreme court justice Pablo Héctor González Villalobos (Chihuahua), State supreme court justice Alejandro González Gómez (Michoacán), Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court), and Hon. Runston Maino (San Diego Superior Court)

Participants 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 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 first panel, “From the Bench: Judges’ Take on Justice Reform,” was moderated by Dr. Shirk. The recurring themes 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, moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa, director of Corporate Ethics and Litigation, 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,” moderated by Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Justice in Mexico program coordinator, 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, 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, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal).

UNAM Law School student Héctor García García practices oral trial techniques in a "Train the Trainer" session.

UNAM Law School student Héctor García García practices oral trial techniques in a “Train the Trainer” session.

On June 11th, participants listened to Judge Luciano Angulo reflect upon the changing role of the judge and his experiences with unique cases that demonstrate the wide range of what is brought before him and the need for the judge to especially pay attention and provide protection to the victim in some cases. During the latter part of the day, participants attended the second “Train the Trainer” session, co-led by federal prosecutor Anthony Da Silva and OASIS Lead Trainer Janice Deaton.  The session continued to guide participants through how to give successful critiques to someone practicing oral trial techniques. Each participant presented a part of an oral trial (opening statement, direct examination by plaintiff, cross-examination by defendant’s attorney, direct examination by defendant’s attorney, closing arguments) while another participant was responsible to critique the presentation afterward. After the critique was given, Ms. Deaton or Mr. Da Silva “critiqued the critique” and offered their perspective of how to improve giving criticism.

Finally, June 13th marked the conclusion of the OASIS San Diego study trip. Closing statements were made by Dr. David Shirk and Dr. Raul Juan Contreras Bustamante, dean of the UNAM Law School.  Each emphasized the important role participants play in the future of building a successful criminal justice system in Mexico as well as the urgent need for their continued participation in teaching oral trial skills for future lawyers at UNAM.  Following these comments, participants participated in a closing ceremony where each was given a certificate recognizing their time and study trip completion. In the afternoon, Anthony Da Silva invited participants to watch his argument of an appeal by a San Diego man convicted of rape and currently serving 37 yrs to life in prison. Da Silva is representing the People in this appeal, which is focused on the court’s decision to allow a book that was in the defendant’s possession into evidence of the trial. The defendant’s attorney argues the book caused prejudicial bias and should not have been allowed in court, while Mr. Da Silva is providing the information that established and maintains that the book was rightly admitted into evidence. The argument took place before a panel of three judges and their decision is to be made within 60 days from the day the oral argument took place. Mr. Da Silva arranged for the OASIS group to meet with the prosecutor and investigator that initially worked on this trial that led to a conviction. Participants were able to not only see how an appeal argument works, but to hear from Mr. Da Silva regarding what type of work goes into the preparation for an appeal.







Justice in Mexico’s Janice Deaton Receives USD Alumni Honors Award

Octavio Rodríguez (Justice in Mexico Program Coordinator), Janice Deaton (OASIS Training Director), Dr. David Shirk (Director, Justice in Mexico)

From left to right:
Octavio Rodríguez (Program Coordinator, Justice in Mexico), Janice Deaton (OASIS Training Course Director), Dr. David Shirk (Director, Justice in Mexico) at the Alumni Honors Celebration

05/13/16 (written by vvozarova) – On April 30th, the University of San Diego hosted its annual Alumni Honors Celebration. This year, Justice in Mexico’s OASIS Training Course Director, Janice Deaton, was selected as the honoree for the Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. The other nine honorees recognized at the ceremony included University of San Diego alumni who have contributed exceptional achievements to their community.

Ms. Deaton graduated from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies in 2010. She earned a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies, with an emphasis in human rights and a focus on Mexico and Guatemala. She was born in San Diego, but shares a love for Mexico’s people and culture. She also lived in Tijuana for some time and, as she likes to point out, her status in Tijuana was one of “illegal immigrant”.

Her previous career achievements include establishing the nonprofit spiritual center Corazón Global, in La Cacho, Tijuana, Mexico. She successfully led this organization from 2006 until 2010 when local residents began management of the center. In most of her criminal cases she serves as a court-appointed attorney to represent low-income or indigent clients.

In an effort to create a more transparent legal system, she serves as Justice in Mexico’s Training Course Director of the OASIS (Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar) program, which trains law professors and students in oral trial skills, ethics and investigation at the Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The program is intended to provide trainings to advance the implementation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system.  The program will assist in Mexico’s transition to a new oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice system by helping law professors and students to develop knowledge and skills in the development of statements, presentation of evidence at trial, and other oral advocacy skills. Over the past two years, the OASIS program has trained 466 UNAM law students and law professors and will train over 240 more in 2017.

At USD, Ms. Deaton also serves as a member of the Advisory Council for the school’s Trans-Border Institute and she co-teaches a workshop with William Headley, CSSp, Ph.D. at the Kroc School entitled “Transformation of a Peace builder”.  She also remains an active member of the State of Guanajuato’s School of Judicial Studies and Investigation in Mexico and a member of the Advisory Board of the San Diego Museum of Man’s Border Crossing Project.


“University of San Diego Alumni Honors.” The University of San Diego. Web. 13 May, 2016.

International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems in Mexico City

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

10/12/15 (written by rkuckertz) – September 24-25, Justice in Mexico’s Oral Advocacy Skill-building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) co-hosted the International Symposium on Oral Adversarial Justice Systems with the Law School of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM) in Mexico City on UNAM’s law school campus. 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 year-long training and education program. Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, OASIS sponsored training courses in oral adversarial litigation skills in Mexico City as well as visits to various cities in the United States where participants observed how the U.S. justice system operates. The UNAM symposium evaluated the success of OASIS’s activities and the justice reform in general while also identifying future training and infastructure needs in order to maintain the reform’s growing momentum across Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District.

Mexican Supreme Court Justice Ministro Alberto Pérez Dayán was first to speak on Mexico’s justice reform following the symposium’s introduction on Thursday evening. Ministro Pérez Dayán outlined the various challenges that remained in regards to the new justice system’s implementation. He noted that courts would first have to name competent judges and justice system participants as well as provide continuous training for these actors. Furthermore, he spoke of a “cultural change” which must occur in order for the reform to be successful. He explained that must be a clear “before” and “after” in regards to the reform; courtroom technology must be modernized, courts must learn to move from a document system to an oral system, and all actors within the justice system must adhere to strict rules and guidelines that allow the system to operate in a consistent fashion across the country.

The second panel of the night focused on the states’ remaining challenges in regards to the new justice system’s full implementation. State supreme court justice José Miguel Salcido Romero of Chihuahua opened the panel by expressing the importance of relying on police investigation and the proper collection of evidence in order to reach a case verdict. He explained that previously, Mexican courts had relied heavily on confessions in the courtroom, causing police investigation and the processing of forensic evidence to take a backseat throughout the adjudication process. State supreme court justice Apolonio Betancourt Ruíz of Durango continued the discussion by asking the question, “what does society want?” He elaborated by stressing that current Mexican society is demanding justice and that this should be the “grand mission” of every courtroom judge rather than the mechanical application of written laws.

State supreme court justice Alejandro González of Michoacán furthered the dialogue on the states’ remaining challenges by addressing the problem of infrastructure. He highlighted the importance of having adequate courtroom facilities and outlined several ongoing and completed projects in Michoacán. He also spoke to the significance of national cooperation throughout the reform process, prompting the audience to consider if the reform would become a national dialogue or “a jurisprudential Tower of Babel.” State supreme court justice Jorge Ignacio Pérez Castañeda of Baja California concluded the panel with a discussion of the quantity and quality of personnel needed to operate within the new justice system. He specifically focused on the role of municipal police, explaining that because these officers are the first point of contact between citizens and the new penal system, their continued training on the new system should be a priority for Mexican states.

The symposium’s second day began with a panel discussion dedicated to the training processes necessary for the new justice system’s full implementation. Dr. María Candelaria Pelayo Torres, Director of the Judiciary Institute of Baja California (Instituto de la Judicatura de Baja California), opened the dialogue with an emphasis on the academic nature of the reform. She noted that the entire law education system requires a transformation in order for future lawyers and judicial operators to have an adequate understanding of how their roles will change in the new justice system. As a result, she explained that there is a high demand for outstanding academic institutions that have the resources and instructors to provide adequate training in the new language of oral adversarial litigation.

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

Panel presentations at the international OASIS symposium

San Diego defense attorney and OASIS Principal Instructor Janice Deaton elaborated on effective training methods and reflected on her instruction experiences with the OASIS program. She stressed that all training programs should employ the model of “learning by doing” in order to teach their participants how to effectively utilize oral adversarial litigation skills in a courtroom. Dr. Dan Schneider of American University expanded upon this notion by encouraging lawyers not to be passive participants in the justice system, but its main actors. He also reflected upon his experience with the OASIS training program, explaining that its participants had the opportunity to observe the strategy and thinking of the lawyers in a vehicular homicide court case in Maryland. He referred to the practice of law as “an art” which involves critical thinking, social skills, and an eagerness to challenge authority. Dr. David Fernández Mena, Coordinator of an American Bar Association Rule of Law Initative(ABA-ROLI) program, explained how he and his organization are working to transform the practice of law throughout Mexico. Through his ABA-ROLI program, Dr. Fernández Mena trains professors and universities on how to teach law in the context of the new justice reform. He stressed that efforts such as these are imperative, as there are currently no official accreditation or training systems for university professors to teach law as it will be practiced under the reform.

Friday’s second panel included several UNAM law professors who compared their experiences with the justice system in Mexico and in the United States. Professor Julieta Lara Luna began the panel with a comparison of the treatment of victims in both legal systems. She maintained that the new justice system should be devoted to the promotion of human rights. Dr. Tito Armando Granados Carrión continued with this theme, emphasizing the “human side” of the justice system. Dr. Granados Carrión expressed that the justice reform “offers the opportunity to humanize the justice system and its citizens.”

The panel discussion continued with several insightful comparisons of the U.S. and Mexican legal systems. Professor Miroslava Pineda Zúñiga made the observation that many Mexicans do not consider the U.S. justice system to be the “final goal” for Mexico due to the manner in which it is portrayed in the media. However, she noted that the U.S. system is principally based on the use of logic and critical reasoning, which is what the Mexican justice system should choose to emulate. She also conveyed the importance of citizen participation and trust in the system, which she claimed would improve its credibility. Dr. Alberto del Castillo del Valle added to this comparison by highlighting the similarities of the U.S. and Mexican constitutions. He specifically focused on the “forgotten” role of rights or guarantees, which are present in both documents. He concluded by emphasizing that these guarantees should be respected within the new system. Professor Eduardo Alonso Domínguez highlighted the use of mediation as a form of case resolution within the United States. He reminded the audience that ninety percent of U.S. cases are resolved through agreements between the plaintiff and the defense as opposed to oral trials. He applied this principle to the Mexican justice system, declaring that negotiation will be an essential process to the effective resolution of cases. Professor Ignacio Hernández Orduña concluded the panel with a discussion of the specific procedures employed by both the U.S. and Mexican legal systems.

The third panel of the day was dedicated to the measurement and evaluation of the justice reform’s implementation. Dr. David Shirk, professor at the University of San Diego and the Principal Investigator for Justice in Mexico, began the panel discussion by describing the context in which the justice reform began and how Justice in Mexico has worked to support this reform. He also emphasized the importance of “taking the pulse” of the new justice system’s performance through methods of regular evaluation.  Dr. Matthew Ingram, professor at State University of New York at Albany, expanded upon these methods by presenting his findings on the three factors affecting the diffusion of the reform across the Mexican states. He explained that the principal mechanisms moving the reform were federal instruction, political party ties across the states, and geographic networks between states. Professor Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, Justice in Mexico’s Project Coordinator, concluded the panel with a discussion of Justiciabarómetro, a research initiative through Justice in Mexico that evaluates levels of professional development of actors within Mexico’s justice system as well as the perceptions of these actors regarding the functionality of the justice system. All three panelists agreed that recent research has only provided a minimal analysis of the current status of the justice reform and that there is a great need for more accurate measurements and indicators of the new system’s performance.

Dr. Maria de los Angeles Fromow

Dr. Maria de los Angeles Fromow presents at the international OASIS symposium

The symposium’s final conference included a lecture by the renowned Dr. María de los Ángeles Fromow, Technical Secretariat of the Coordinating Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System of the Ministry of the Interior. Dr. Fromow shared many insights into the implementation of the new justice system, reminding the audience that six Mexican states have already achieved full implementation and sixty-two percent of the population is currently operating under the new system. She noted the importance of both political and economic will in the implementation process. Dr. Fromow was joined on stage by Dr. María Leoba Castañeda Rivas, the Director of UNAM’s law school and a respected collaborator of Justice in Mexico’s OASIS project.

The symposium was a monumental success, presenting a thorough picture of the justice reform’s past successes and remaining challenges moving forward. Justice in Mexico would like to thank all of the symposium’s panelists and moderators, UNAM’s law school, its faculty, and its director, Dr. María Leoba Castañeda Rivas for their dedicated collaboration and commitment to justice reform in Mexico.