Justice in Mexico presents findings from 2017 Justiciabarómetro report to a Mexican delegation

11/22/17- On Thursday, November 16, 2017 the Justice in Mexico program welcomed a delegation of Mexican law professors and experts sponsored by the U.S. State Department and hosted by the San Diego Diplomacy Council and offered a presentation of the results of the 2016 Justiciabarómetro survey of Mexican judges, prosecutors, and public defenders.

The State Department-sponsored visit was organized by the San Diego Diplomacy Council through the Global Ties network. The delegation comprised a group of twenty law professors, judges, researchers, and administrators from several institutions located in ten different states throughout the country, including law schools and graduate degree programs.

On behalf of the Justice in Mexico program, David Shirk and Octavio Rodriguez presented a  PowerPoint presentation of the results of the 2016 Justiciabarómetro survey of Mexican judges, prosecutors, and public defenders. A full list of the members of the delegation is provided below.

The Justiciabarómeter is an innovative diagnostic tool for analyzing the criminal justice sector through the eyes of the professionals who serve in key positions within the system, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and police.

Members of the delegation were especially interested in the research methodology and raised several questions about the findings, which generally noted the increased support among judicial sector professionals for the country’s transition to a new oral, adversarial model of criminal procedure in 2016.

Universidad Autonomá de Baja California (UABC) delegate Jorge Díaz Zazueta, who collaborated with Justice in Mexico for the implementation of the survey, noted that the Justiciabarómetro provides invaluable policy insights on the Mexican criminal justice system. Specifically, he noted, the survey results were useful in identifying areas of need for further training of judicial sector personnel in the state of Baja California.

The delegates also made several suggestions for future iterations of the survey, including the possibility of partnering with their home institutions to replicate the survey with other criminal justice sector operators in 2020. Overall, the visit provided an important opportunity to share the results of the study and allow a fruitful exchange of ideas among experts working to improve Mexico’s criminal justice system.

Justiciabarómetro Featured in Nexos

Image Source: Nexos.

Image Source: Nexos.

10/10/17- (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa) In October of this year, Nexos, a political magazine based in Mexico City, featured an article co-authored by Justice in Mexico Director and Program Coordinator, David Shirk and Octavio Rodríguez, that examines rule of law and judicial reform in Mexico. The article, titled “El Justiciabarómetro Mexicano” (The Mexican Justice Barometer), highlights the Justice in Mexico’s Justiciabarómetro project, a quantitative research initiative to gauge the current levels of comprehensive judicial reform and the professional attitudes of judicial operators throughout the Mexican criminal justice system, including police, public defenders and judges.

The article introduces the background of the Justiciabarómetro project, which began in 2009 and was first published as research study in 2010. The project was initiated at a critical moment in Mexico’s democratic development in order to provide much needed analysis of judicial operators and judicial reform in Mexico. Just one year before, Mexico’s ruling president Enrique Peña Nieto had launched an ambitious judicial reform, aimed at improving the transparency of the criminal justice system. Under the agenda of New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP), the reforms targeted various operators across multiple judicial sectors, including police officers, prosecutors, public defenders, the Ministry of the Public, the courts, and the prison system. The reforms introduced new judicial procedures and standards with the intent of promoting greater access to justice (for defendants and victims alike) and improving the efficiency of judicial operators.

The 2008 reforms were implemented following a general outcry over the dysfunctionality of Mexico’s justice system, which was fraught with impunity, corruption, legal misconduct and a general lack of access to justice for defendants and victims. In fact, Mexico’s society was so disenfranchised by the rate of impunity and level of uninvestigated crimes that often crimes went unreported. Moreover, crimes that were reported were often protracted by trial delays, a reliance on eye witness testimony and general negligence.

The first Justiciabarómetro published in 2010 was a survey of judicial operators across nine Mexican states with a response rate of 24%. The survey, composed of over 120 questions, focused on the demographic and professional profiles of judicial operators as well as their personal perspectives on various topics; including: the effectiveness of the judicial sector, the implementation of the new judicial sector and the attitude towards persistent problems of corruption, organized crime and violence.  The study generated useful indicators as the early development of Mexico’s judicial reform, useful not only for academic purposes, but also for public policy initiatives.

The Nexos article specifically highlights the most recent 2016 Justiciabarómetro publication, which covered 11 Mexican states with a response rate of 56%. In comparison to the baseline of the first Justiciabarómetro study, the 2016 study discovered several positive changes in the attitudes of the surveyed judicial operators towards judicial reform. For example, about 80% of the survey participants believe that the NSJP will reduce institutional corruption and about 95% of judicial operators prefer the new oral, adversarial trial procedures over the antiquated, written procedures. The 2016 study also identifies several persisting challenges within Mexico’s judicial system that beg to be address for the sake of the success and continuity of the judicial reform process.

Overall, the Nexos article underscores the objectives and important findings of the latest Justiciabarómetro study with relation to Mexico’s judicial reform and judicial operators. The objective of Justice in Mexico’s ongoing Justiciabarómetro project is not only to fill the gap in the literature related to judicial operators, but also to provide routine evaluation of the Mexican judicial system. In this manner, the Justiciabarómetro can identify progressive development and remaining challenges within Mexico’s comprehensive judicial reform and judicial personnel. It is the overarching goal of our organization to accentuate the positive impact of the relatively new oral, adversarial system in Mexico’s rule of law and subsequently reinforce the continuous development of Mexico’s judicial system.


Please see below for a link to the Nexos feature (Spanish); there is also a separate link to the translated Nexos article (English).

Nexos (Spanish): Nexos Feature

Translation (English): Nexos Translation




UNAM Law School Participants Complete OASIS Study Trip at Harvard Law School

OASIS Boston participants next to a statue of John Harvard, one of the Founders of Harvard College

OASIS Boston participants next to a statue of John Harvard, one of the Founders of Harvard College

6/13/17 —From June 5 to June 16, six professors and six students from the UNAM Law School (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Facultad de Derecho) participated in the first of three 2017 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). This program is made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. With the assistance and direction of OASIS Regional Coordinator and Harvard professor Philip Heymann, UNAM faculty and students had the opportunity to meet and learn from prominent public officials and legal experts in the Boston community including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, prosecutors John Capin and Jordi de Llano, 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, Chief United States District Judge Patti Saris, defense attorney Rob Goldstein and federal prosecutor Fred M. Wyshak Jr.

Study trip participants had the opportunity to visit both federal and state courts in Boston. They were able to engage with federal judges and defense attorneys to gain insight from both sides of the courtroom. Aside from visits and discussions, participants were able to learn training skills to disseminate oral trial techniques. OASIS Instructor Peter Mitchell from the Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division in New York City led a “Train the Trainer” session on teaching oral trial skills. Mr. Mitchell guided the participants through the training, allowing participants to practice oral trial techniques and learn to provide effective critique and feedback.

Discussing Judicial Operators Perspectives in Mexico: Justiciabarómetro 2017 Presentation

05/11/17- Justice in Mexico will present findings from their 2017 Justiciabarómetro report which provides a comprehensive measure on the perspectives of judicial operators in Mexico on a variety of topics including judicial system effectiveness, compensation levels, and attitudes toward Mexico’s recent problems with crime and violence. Importantly, the study finds that there have been changes in judicial attitudes toward recent reform efforts, including a notable increase in favorability among judges toward the use of oral, adversarial trial procedures introduced in June 2008 and implemented nationwide over an eight-year period.

Discussing Changes in Adversarial Trial Procedures in Mexico

In the lead up to the June 18, 2016 deadline for the use of oral, adversarial trial procedures to be implemented nationwide, Justice in Mexico worked with the Mexican polling firm Data- Opinion y Mercados (Data OPM) to conduct the second Justiciabarómetro survey of more than 700 Mexican judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, building on a previous study conducted in 2010. The 2016 Justiciabarómetro study is the largest survey ever of Mexican judges and was administered in 12 states with varying levels of progress in implementing the reforms. Importantly, the results from the survey demonstrate important progress for the transition to the new criminal justice system.  While anecdotal data emphasizes judges and other judicial operators are largely opposed to the new adversarial system, the Justiciabarómetro survey findings dispel these claims as the judges and other judicial operators largely appear to be conscious and supportive of the benefits of reforms to Mexican criminal procedures.

The presentation of the report will be held at:

Sala de Usos Múltiples del Edificio del Poder Judicial del Estado de Baja California 
Mexicali, Baja California
17 de mayo, a partir de las 11 hrs.

Registration: www.pjbc.gob.mx/inscripciones

Speakers for this event include:

David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico, Associate Professor and Director of the M.A. program in Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego.

Octavio Rodríguez, Coordinator of Justice in Mexico

Judge Luciano Angulo Espinoza, State of Baja California

The Justiciabarómetro 2017 report is available in English and Spanish. The English version can be found here: DownloadThe Spanish version of the report can be found here: Download

Justice in Mexico and USD School of Law co-host International Conference on Mexico’s Judicial Reform Efforts

6/24/16 (written by ncortes) – On June 10th, Justice in Mexico co-hosted “Promoting the Rule of Law in Mexico” International Conference with USD’s School of Law at the Hahn University Forums on campus. Approximately 100 students, faculty, legal professionals, and government officials from both sides of the border attended the international conference on Mexico’s judicial reform efforts just one week prior to the official full implementation deadline of the judicial reform.

The audience was welcomed by the heads of the organizations that made the conference possible: Dr. David Shirk, director of Justice in Mexico, Dr. Stephen Ferruolo, dean of the School of Law, and Justin Bird, vice president of Sempra Energy. In his brief opening address, Dr. David Shirk emphasized the critical time at which the conference was taking place: the conclusion of an eight-year process to reform Mexico’s justice system.

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 the current challenges to its full implementation. Dr. Díaz Santana observed that the late publication of the national criminal procedural code, the lack of funding, and the tendency to procrastinate created a crisis that demanded renewed attention as the deadline approached. The government had to come up with clear plans, funding, and new indicators for evaluation. Moreover, the federal government had to acquire new technologies for investigation and help reluctant state governments assimilate to the inevitability of change. According to Dr. Díaz, there are still many issues that remain unresolved, including updating law school curriculums and informing the public. In his view, even though the implementation phase will be over by June 18, the system will need to continue to make adjustments over the long term.

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)

Following Dr. Díaz Santana’s reflections on Mexico’s justice reform efforts was the panel “From the Bench: Judges’ Take on Justice Reform,” moderated by Dr. Shirk. The recurring themes included newly acquired responsibilities of judges, the importance of training judges, and the United States’ partner role in this transition. Pablo Héctor González Villalobos, state court justice in Chihuahua, discussed how the reform redefined the job of judges. In the past, a judge’s duty was to serve as an instrument to apply the law while oral trials now demand judges have a more dignified role as interpreters of the law. For him, this is a radical change not often spoken of but that nonetheless carries important consequences, such as the need to implement safeguards that guarantee the impartiality of judges. Alejandro González Gómez, state court justice of Michoacán, drew attention to the absence of an established procedure that outlines the process of appeals in the new system. He recommended training programs and clearly defining the appeals process under the new system.

Judges from the United States complemented the discussion by sharing their observations and recommendations. Hon. Teresa Sanchez Gordon (Los Angeles Superior Court) shared her experience participating in a successful program implemented by the California Judges Association (CJA) that allowed for judge-to-judge interactions between U.S. judges and their Mexican counterparts. As an advocate of judge-to-judge training, she invited Mexican judges to visit California where judges are willing to take their commitment to the next level. Hon. Runston “Tony” Maino (San Diego Superior Court) pointed to the magnitude of the transformation required under the new system to emphasize that change will take time and that one should not be discouraged. He also mentioned the importance of having more individuals buy into the change in order for the change to become real.

Anti-corruption panel moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa. Panelists include Peter Ainsworth, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, and Benjamin Hill

Anti-corruption panel moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa. Panelists include Peter Ainsworth, Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, and Benjamin Hill

The next panel, moderated by Alejandro Rios Rippa, director of Corporate Ethics and Litigations at IEnova, focused on anti-corruption efforts in Mexico. Panel themes included the importance of prosecutorial independence, recent changes in the law, and future hopes to reduce corruption and impunity. Peter Ainsworth, senior anti-corruption counsel of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division emphasized the importance of having the tools, ability, capacity, and most importantly prosecutorial independence in order to fight corruption. In his view, people need to be able to bring cases against their bosses. Dr. Marco Antonio Fernández, associate researcher at México Evalúa, observed that public pressure is pushing the Mexican government to deal with corruption, which has resulted in new legislation. However, much work is required to implement the new laws at the state level. Dr. Fernández drew attention to the great level of impunity in Mexico and noted that unfortunately, “patrimonialism continues to be the name of the game.”

Benjamin Hill, head of the new Specialized Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Prevention Office of the Mexican Federal Government was hopeful about Mexico’s prospects to change. He observed that while the reactions to political scandals have usually been cosmetic in the past, there are signs that this time around is different. In addition to having a working democracy and a stronger civil society aided by social media, he noted that there is now a more robust body of knowledge on corruption from which Mexico can benefit. In terms of conflict of interest, he observed it is a difficult one to discuss in a society where it is often considered a moral obligation to help one’s relatives. Mr. Rios added that sometimes individuals are not aware of what conflict of interest entails and thus it is important to have an ongoing conversation that engages civil society.

Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal) gives his keynote luncheon address.

Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal) gives his keynote luncheon address.

During the luncheon that followed, the audience first heard from William Ostick, U.S. consul general in Tijuana. Mr. Ostick said Mexico’s effort to reform its judicial system required a generational change and reiterated the United States’ willingness to be Mexico’s partner in that process. Mr. Ostick also introduced keynote speaker Dr. Alfonso Pérez Daza, advisor for the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal). He outlined five procedural changes that resulted from the reform: investigation, chain of custody, writing vs. oral, preventive detention, and alternative solutions. Dr. Pérez concluded that Mexico is facing one of the most important changes in its legal history and hopes the reform will improve the criminal justice system by shortening trial times and achieving victims’ restitution. According to Dr. Pérez, “the new criminal system is not a panacea, nor will it bring an end to crime, corruption, and injustice, but I am sure it is a better system than what we have already.”

Professor Miguel Sarre speaks to conference attendees about impunity and the prison system in Mexico.

Professor Miguel Sarre speaks to conference attendees about impunity and the prison system in Mexico.

As an introduction to the last panel “Improving the Administration of Justice,” Miguel Sarre Iguíniz, professor at the Instituto Tecnológico de México, gave a brief commentary on impunity, human rights, and the prison system in Mexico. To illustrate the prevalence of impunity in Mexico, he observed that only 0.49% of criminal cases are actually reported to and investigated by authorities. Moreover, he noted the number of crimes propitiated by the government in Mexico City alone is higher than the number of crimes handled by the justice system at the national level. According to Professor Sarre, 40,000 detainees in Mexico City are forced to pay a quota three times a day in order to avoid abuses. Subsequently, there are 120,000 daily extortion cases that result from the system itself. Mr. Sarre emphasized the importance of taking into account human rights in the prison system.

Octavio Rodríguez, Justice in Mexico program coordinator, moderated the last panel in which capacity building and training, U.S.-Mexico partnership, and institutional independence were recurring themes. Ray Allan Gattinella, senior legal advisor for the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development of the Department of Justice observed that capacity building and training along with the professionalization of the police are the most important tasks to improve the administration of justice. Mr. Gattinella also noted the lack of institutional stability and an accreditation system for Mexican law schools may hinder progress.

Octavio Rodríguez moderates panel on improving the administration of justice in Mexico. Panelists include Ray Allen Gattinella, Judge Luciano Angulo, and Robert Ciaffa.

Octavio Rodríguez moderates panel on improving the administration of justice in Mexico. Panelists include Ray Allen Gattinella, Judge Luciano Angulo, and Robert Ciaffa.

Luciano Angulo Espinoza, judge in the state of Baja California, observed the importance of receiving ongoing training. He described his personal experience of having training discontinued at a moment were it was very much needed. Judge Angulo reflected on the importance of having an independent judiciary as well as job security in order to improve the administration of justice. He mentioned that Baja California judges are ratified every five years, which hurts judges’ independence. Robert Ciaffa, federal prosecutor pointed out that Mexico will not be the only beneficiary of the efforts made to improve the administration of justice. He observed that currently there are many barriers, including lack of trust, that prevent U.S. prosecutors from collaborating with their Mexican counterparts. He observed that while Mexico and U.S. share common targets, many times this results in competition instead of collaboration. In Mr. Ciaffa’s words, “we strive for the day when we can recognize each other’s orders.”

Dr. David Shirk gives closing remarks to conference.

Dr. David Shirk gives closing remarks to conference.

To conclude, Dr. Shirk offered his reflections regarding the outcomes of the conference. The conference will inform an upcoming Justice in Mexico report on judicial reforms and serve as a step towards further collaboration with UNAM, where Justice in Mexico will cohost a similar event September 8-9 to continue the conversation. Dr. Shirk also announced the creation of an anti-corruption course within the USD Master of Arts in International Relations and the School of Law that will hopefully attract both USD students and members of the legal community. The final and perhaps most important deliverable is the knowledge, hope, and optimism that all attendees take with them following the conference. According to Dr. Shirk, “all of us should look at this new system as an opportunity to improve the rule of law and the administration of justice in Mexico. All of us are part and responsible for helping achieve better results moving forward.”