Second OASIS workshop of 2018 is completed at UANL

03/09/18 (written by Genesis Lopez) – Justice in Mexico’s Oral Adversarial Skill Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS) program held its second oral advocacy workshop of 2018 from February 23- March 3, 2018, working collaboratively with the Department of Law and Criminology (Facultad de Derecho y Criminología, FACDYC) at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, UANL) in Monterrey. The OASIS program, funded through the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, emphasizes oral litigation skills, which are provided through these workshops.

The extensive two-week workshop provided critical instruction regarding the oral techniques central to Mexico’s Criminal Justice System. Approximately 85 participants, law professors and students from UANL, attended the workshop. OASIS Training Director Janice Deaton led a diverse team of instructors from Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. These instructors included: Christopher Pastrana, Bertha Alcalde, Anthony Da Silva, Jorge Gutiérrez, Michael Mandig, Albert Amado, Adriana Blanco, Carlos Varela and Iker Ibarreche.

The instructors addressed seven major topics:

Theory of the case: The strategy behind the decisions and actions a lawyer takes. This assists the participants in making strategic decisions, which help solve a case.

Opening Statements: Understanding the importance opening statements have in regards to the trial, specifically the jury. Participants learned how to prepare and present an effective opening statement.

Interrogation: Establishing the credibility of the witnesses, laying out the scene, and introducing the events that took place in relationship to the case.

Cross-Interrogation: Questioning of a witness where the opposing party looks to discredit their testimony and credibility.

Introducing Evidence: Determining whether or not the evidence one wishes to present is real, testimonial, demonstrative, or documental.

Use of Depositions: Understanding how to utilize previous statements, especially to refresh a witness’s memory during trial.

Closing Statements: Reiterating the important arguments, theories, and evidence that are relevant to the case. Participants learned how to structure their closing arguments and strengthen their communication skills.

At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants attended a plenary session on ethics and applied the skills they learned in a mock trial. The simulation was designed specifically for the OASIS program and gave the participants the opportunity to showcase what they earned over the course of two weeks. They adopted specific roles and the instructors acted as judges, overseeing the trial and providing feedback.

At the closing ceremony, the FACDYC Director, Oscar Lugo Serrato spoke with Justice in Mexico’s Program Coordinator, Octavio Rodriguez and discussed the importance of practical trainings like the OASIS workshop. They also discussed the significance of bi-national relationships between universities. The next OASIS workshop will take place at the (Universidad de Guadalajara, UdeG), ­­­from April 13 –April 21, 2018.

























Justice in Mexico inaugurates third year of oral adversarial training at UNAM Law School

Chilean attorney Leonardo Moreno leads a small group of UNAM law professors through an oral adversarial skills practice session.

Chilean attorney Leonardo Moreno leads a small group of UNAM law professors through an oral adversarial skills practice session.

3/2/17 (written by Ashley Ahrens-Víquez) Now in its third year, Justice in Mexico’s OASIS (Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar) program just completed its first of three workshops providing oral advocacy training to law faculty and students at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Law School in Mexico City this past week.

Organized as a 40-hour intensive workshop, participants had the opportunity to further develop skills and techniques specifically adapted for Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). The main goal of the workshops are to provide oral adversarial skills training to UNAM Law School faculty and students and support Mexico’s transition and implementation of its oral, adversarial and accusatory criminal justice system.

Workshop Structure

During the two-week workshop, various instructors gave lectures on different aspects of oral litigation, including 1) Structure of Opening Statements; 2) Sufficiency of the Evidence; 3) Closing Arguments and Sentencing; Theory of the Case; Presenting Evidence at Trial; Interrogation and Cross-examination; Objections; Use of prior statements; and Legal theory. The workshops are comprised of about 20 hours of theory and about 20 hours of practical exercises, and are taught by United States, judges, prosecutors, and/or defense attorneys, with teaching experience in the United States. Some Mexican and Chilean prosecutors and/or defense attorneys are also incorporated to provide comparative perspective. On the final day of the seminar, participants apply what they have learned in a mock trial, after which they receive feedback on their performance and suggestions for improvement.

Since 2015, the OASIS program has helped to further develop oral advocacy trial skills to over 359 UNAM law students and law professors. As the February workshop draws to a close, Justice in Mexico looks forward to the successful implementation of the next two OASIS oral advocacy skill building workshops taking place March 13-25 and April 3-7, 2017 at UNAM Law School.

Justice in Mexico publishes Policy Brief on Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System

Justice in Mexico Policy Brief: The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico now available!

Justice in Mexico Policy Brief: The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico now available!

07/25/16 – Justice in Mexico is proud to release its newest publication, “The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico.” With Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) in full effect, the Policy Brief provides an assessment of Mexico’s judicial sector reforms, the Mexican government’s implementation efforts, and the remaining challenges and concerns. The Policy Brief also draws on previous and recent findings of Justice in Mexico to provide a concise overview and some of the policy recommendations that can help ensure the long-term success of recent reform efforts.

The NSJP, which shifts Mexico’s criminal procedure from the traditional ‘mixed inquisitorial’ model of criminal procedure to an ‘adversarial’ model, offers three principal advantages that improve Mexico’s overall judiciary. First, the NSJP introduces greater transparency, which is largely thanks to the inclusion of oral trials, or public court proceedings, into hearings. Second, the new system is far more efficient than the traditional model, as the courts’ once overloaded dockets that clogged up the court system have been relieved by including alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and plea bargains into the processes, among other methods. Lastly, the NSJP focuses heavily on respecting due process, which lends greater fairness to the administration of justice.

The Policy Brief builds on previous Justice in Mexico reports that covered the status of the New Criminal Justice System implementation, an eight-year phase that culminated on June 18, 2016 when Mexico’s constitutionally imposed deadline passed. Those reports include:

The Policy Brief also draws data from a forthcoming study by Justice in Mexico that will be released in September 2016. That report will be the second iteration of the “Justiciabarómetro” survey of more than 700 Mexican judges, prosecutors, and public defenders in 12 states. Several preliminary results worth noting demonstrate the important progress and hope for the future of the NSJP. First, there is overwhelming agreement in Mexico that judicial reforms are needed. Second, although judges largely agree that the NSJP will increase transparency and reduce corruption, prosecutors and public defenders do not. Third, a substantial turnover among judges in 2008 throughout Mexico may bode well for the reforms’ implementation and effectiveness because many current judges were appointed to position around the time the judicial reforms were approved in 2008, thus making them more comfortable and accepting of the judicial changes.

“The State of Judicial Sector Reform in Mexico” is made possible thanks to generous funding of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is co-authored by Justice in Mexico’s Nancy Cortés, Kim Heinle, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David Shirk. Justice in Mexico is based at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego.

The full publication is available here.

Congress approves Miscelánea Penal reforms to bolster New Criminal Justice System

Excelsior_Mateo Reyes_Senate vote Miscelanea Penal_2016

The Mexican Senate approved the Miscelánea Penal reforms in support of the New Criminal Justice System on June 14, 2016. Photo: Mateo Reyes, El Universal.

7/5/16 (written by sramirez) — The Mexican Senate recently approved the Miscelánea Penal reforms to support the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP), thus ultimately putting into full force the new system. The package of ten legal reforms were heard in an extraordinary session by the Senate on June 14, 2016, just four days prior to the constitutional deadline for Mexico to implement the NSJP nationwide, the overarching reform to the judicial system. The Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved the Miscelánea Penal reforms on April 28 with a vote of 403 in favor, 0 against, and 24 abstentions. The Mexican Senate, meanwhile, voted 109 in favor and 5 against.

The articles in particular were intended to reconcile disputes between the NSJP vis-à-vis Mexico’s National Code of Criminal Procedures (Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales), the Federal Criminal Code (Código Penal Federal), the General Law of the National System of Public Security (Ley General del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública), the Federal Law for the Protection of Persons involved in the Criminal Process (Ley Federal para la Protección a Personas que Intervienen en el Procedimiento Penal), and the General Law for Prevention and Sanctioning of Crimes of Kidnapping (Ley General para Prevenir y Sancionar los Delitos en Materia de Secuestro), among others.

The approval of the Miscelánea Penal reforms are not only important because of the timing of their approval just days before the constitutional deadline for the NSJP, but also because of the legal protections the package of ten reforms provide. For one, the reforms provide protection to the due process procedures for individuals involved in legal processes. They also clarify the role of the Control Judge (Juez de Control), one of the several new judgeship positions created under the New Criminal Justice System, thus, among other purposes, dividing the control throughout a legal procedure between several positions to keep power in check. As Excélsior writes, the reforms also bolster rights of the accused by giving them the option of presenting evidence in their case directly to the judge, thus removing the Attorney General (Ministerio Público) from the process. The reforms also take an important step forward for the rights of the accused by declaring that an individual cannot be held in preventative prison (prisión preventiva) for more than two years, thus expediting the legal proceedings. In addition, the reforms require a more active legal counsel for the accused during legal proceedings, promote electronic and technological advances in the judicial system, heighten protections for victims 12 years old and younger, and more clearly define police responsibilities when arriving at a crime scene, among others.

The Mexican government applauded the Miscelánea Penal’s approval. Congressman Manuel Espino, for example, argued that the reforms would comprehensively strengthen the judicial system. “We have evolved,” he said following the Chamber of Deputies’ approval in April, “to give judicial elements to the Executive and Judicial branches in order to better advance justice. But this is not sufficient,” he cautioned, “given that Mexico ranks as one of the countries in Latin America with the worst levels of impunity.” The president of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission, Angélica de la Peña of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido Revolucionario Democrática, PRD), also recognized the reform’s efforts to protect the human rights of the accused within the judicial processes, among other changes.

With the Miscelánea Penal approved, the Mexican government celebrated the closing of the eight-year implementation phase of the NSJP on June 18, 2016 in Mexico City. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Supreme Court President Luis María Aguilar, the heads of the Mexican Senate and Chamber of Deputies, and all 32 state governors, among others, attended the ceremony. While the heads of government recognized the importance of the closing of the NSJP’s implementation period, they also acknowledged that the work was just beginning, echoing Congressman Espino’s caution that Mexico still has significant work to do.


Notimex. “Diputados avalan en lo general Miscelánea Penal.’” Excélsior. April 28, 2016.

Cámara de Diputados. “Boletín N° 1487: Aprueban diputados, con modificaciones, dictamen a la minuta que reforma la Miscelánea Penal.” LXlll Legislatura. April 28, 2016.

Morales, Alberto and Juan Arvizu. “Aprueba Senado Miscelánea Penal y la regresa a Diputados.” El Universal. June 14, 2016.

Robles de la Rosa, Leticia et al. “Habrá prisión preventiva, solo dos años; aprueban Miscelánea Penal.” Excélsior. June 15, 2016.

Justice in Mexico’s Octavio Rodríguez presents at the Mexican Senate’s “Reforma a la Justicia Penal” Symposium

Justice in Mexico Program Coordinator, Octavio Rodríguez, presents at the Mexican Senate May 12, 2016.

Justice in Mexico Program Coordinator, Octavio Rodríguez, presents at the Mexican Senate May 12, 2016.

05/17/16 (written by rkuckertz) – On May 12, 2016, Justice in Mexico’s Program Coordinator, Octavio Rodríguez, presented at the Mexican Senate’s “Reforma a la Justicia Penal” (“Criminal Justice System Reform”) Symposium. In attendance were many of Mexico’s leading voices on legal and human rights issues, including the Center of Investigation for Development A.C. (Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo, A.C., CIDAC), the Institute of Procedural Criminal Justice (Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal, IJPP), Common Cause A.C. (Causa en Común A.C.), and Layda Negrete, esteemed lawyer and producer of the award-winning documentary Presumed Guilty (2008).

Each of the presenters offered the Mexican legislature new insights on the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP) and its progress towards full implementation throughout the country. The reform promises the standardization of oral, adversarial trial procedures throughout Mexico in a step towards modernizing its justice system to bring greater transparency, efficiency, and fairness to criminal proceedings. Officials established the goal date of June 18, 2016 to reach full implementation of this new justice system. In light of this deadline—just one month away—the presenters shared their own experiences with Mexico’s justice system and offered thorough assessments of both the reform’s progress and the work that has yet to be done.

Mr. Rodríguez specifically shared Justice in Mexico’s findings from the research conducted under the Justiciabarómetro project, which seeks to evaluate the current levels of professional development and attitudes among actors currently operating throughout Mexico’s justice system. He also described the objectives and activities being conducted under Justice in Mexico’s four primary project initiatives, including Justiciabarómetro; the Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Seminar (OASIS) project, which seeks to provide practical training on oral litigation skills in order to ease Mexico’s transition to the New Criminal Justice System; Memoria, Justice in Mexico’s data-collection project on violence related to organized crime; and Testigo, an initiative that aims to support individuals who have been afflicted by violence and persecution in their pursuit of immigration relief in the United States.

The presentation was well received by those present in the Mexican Senate and by social media. A live Twitter audience captured many of Mr. Rodríguez’s insights on the Criminal Justice System Reform. During the presentation, Mexico Evalúa (@mexevalua) and many others commented on Mr. Rodríguez’s observations:

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Mr. Rodríguez did an excellent job representing both the University of San Diego and the entire Justice in Mexico team at the Mexican Senate. His presentation to the Senate is one way Justice in Mexico attempts to aid researchers and policy makers alike in their understanding of the New Criminal Justice System.



“Reforma a la justicia penal: cuando los transitorios nos alcancen.” Senado.gob. Web. 17 May 2016.

“México Evalúa.” Twitter. 12 May 2016.

“Belisario Domínguez.” Twitter. 12 May 2016.