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.”

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.

 

Sources:

“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.

OASIS International Study Trip in Washington DC

OASIS DC participants

OASIS DC participants

09/02/2015 (written by msmith) – A study trip to Washington, D.C. conducted by the University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico program enabled 8 faculty and 4 students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Law School to learn about the U.S. court system, criminal justice procedures, and international law more generally from June 15 to June 26. Conducted under the auspices of Justice in Mexico’s Oral Advocacy Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS), this two-week study trip was made possible thanks to the support of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) as part of the Mérida Initiative.

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 site visits. Site visits included meetings with relevant justice system administrators including a judge, prosecutor, and public defender as well as meetings with representatives from the American Bar Association, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the World Bank, and the Mexican Embassy. Highlights of the study trip also included program participants attending an actual trial in addition to several interactions with key promoter of new Mexican legal reform efforts, Ambassador Emilio Rabasa. Participants also attended a presentation at the Wilson Center where UNAM professor Alberto Del Castillo, Dr. Maria Leoba Castañeda Rivas, Dr. David Shirk, Dr. Daniel Schneider, and Mr. Octavio Rodriguez discussed the implementation of Mexico’s new criminal justice system.

Elizabeth L. Lippy, Assistant Director of the Stephen S. Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program at American University discussed with participants how to prepare for a trial. First she gave a brief overview on the desired content of an opening statement. She also explained the difference between direct examination and cross-examination. Lippy provided strategies for effective examination (key questions, distinguish inductive from closed- answer questions, leading the witness to say what you want to hear, preparing a set of highlights on the case that will lead the questions you make). Participants also discussed the documentary “The Shooting of Big Man” with Lippy to analyze the ways defense and prosecution lawyers conducted examination. They debated whether or not it was ethical for the defense to prepare Jack Jones in such a detailed way for the trial. Where is the line between doing a god job as defense and cheating the system by interfering with the defendant’s declaration?

Chief Circuit Mediator, Amy E. Wind, discussed with participants the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process at the District Court of the District of Colombia. Arbitration and mediation are the two major forms of ADR. While the two most common forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation, negotiation is almost always attempted first to resolve a dispute. It is the preeminent mode of dispute resolution. Negotiation allows the parties to meet in order to settle a dispute. The main advantage of this form of dispute settlement is that it allows the parties themselves to control the process and the solution. Mediation is also an informal alternative to litigation. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. Arbitration is a simplified version of a trial involving limited discovery and simplified rules of evidence. The arbitration is headed and decided by an arbitral panel.

The study group participants spent one afternoon at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). They were greeted by IACHR staff and given a brief tour of the facility. After the tour, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, gave a presentation on the Commission and its work with the Americas, its relationship with the United States, and the challenges and accomplishments of the IACHR.   Following Mr. Álvarez’s presentation, he answered questions from the participants and had a question and answer session.

OASIS study trip participants also had the opportunity to attend a criminal trial in Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Maryland. The participants were able to witness the entire defense case in a vehicular manslaughter trial. Deputy Public Defender Doug Irmanger represented the defendant. The participants got to see the defense expert witness testify on direct as well as cross examination, which they found very interesting. They were also able to witness four other percipient witnesses, including the defendant himself. After lunch, participants watched the closing arguments by both the defense and prosecution.

The judge took questions during the recess, which all the participants enjoyed. Following the close of trial, the participants met with Mike McCullough, the director of the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative for Latin America. (ABA ROLI). Mr. McCullogh discussed efforts to train attorneys and judges throughout the Americas, as the oral adversarial system is relatively new to all Latin American countries. Mr. McCullough also discussed the recent efforts at ABA ROLI Mexico to establish a Bar Association, to monitor dispensary and continued education issues among Mexican attorneys.

OASIS DC participants with Mexican Ambassador to the OAS Emilio Rabasa

OASIS DC participants with Mexican Ambassador to the OAS Emilio Rabasa

Participants also heard a lecture at American University by Professor Dan Schneider on the American trial system. Attorney Janice Deaton also participated in a round table discussion on trials and the importance of juries. The participants were very interested in the jury system, since they were able to observe half of a trial the day before. Following this discussion, Ambassador Emilio Rabasa, the Mexican ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) gave a fascinating talk on the importance of the new adversarial system in Mexico, its potential impact on democracy and transparency, and his role working with civil society to push the legislation through Mexican congress. Following his presentation, there was a question and answer period.

The OASIS program hosted a final program with the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, with a panel discussion on the progress of judicial sector implementation in Mexico that included presentations by UNAM Law Faculty Dean Dr. Maria Leoba Castañeda Rivas, Prof. Alberto Castillo del Valle, Prof. Daniel Schneider, Dr. David Shirk, and Mr. Octavio Rodríguez. The public presentation drew an audience of approximately 50 government employees, experts, and academics interested in judicial reform in Mexico. This presentation was followed by a private closing ceremony for OASIS program participants, who were awarded their certificates of participation and offered constructive feedback on the two-week study trip.

OASIS DC participants last day

OASIS DC participants last day