Higher Education Partnership Supports Historic Changes in Mexico’s Criminal Justice System
By the year 2016, a Constitutional Reform in Mexico requires the transformation of the current inquisitorial criminal justice system to an oral adversarial system aiming at making justice more transparent and efficient. This ambitious change requires lawyers to develop specific skills to present their cases in open court.
Under the TIES (Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships) Program, USAID funded a university partnership between the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) and the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. This HED-managed partnership helped develop an Oral Trial Advocacy Program at ITESM, which has been incorporated into the curriculum at all 10 ITESM law campuses around Mexico, representing a major advancement toward achieving the goal of adopting the new criminal justice system.
Through the Oral Trial Advocacy Program, ITESM law students entering the school as of August 2011 are required to take classes that focus on direct examination, cross examination, and opening and closing arguments – new concepts in Mexico under the adversarial justice system. This coursework prepares students to uphold elements of this new system, in which defense attorneys and prosecutors conduct trials in open courtrooms that ensure greater fairness and transparency. To lay the foundation for this new education, the partnership sent Mexican students to Chicago-Kent to learn about the United States’ adversarial system.
Karla Loranca, an alumna of the Master of Law degree program, reflects positively on her experience: “I feel very happy and accomplished because I had the chance to learn from people who have been working in this system their whole life.” Loranca now teaches oral advocacy to law students in the ITESM system, drawing on the knowledge she acquired at Chicago-Kent to prepare future attorneys. “Now it is my responsibility to transmit everything I learned to the Mexican students who are willing to learn and that are conscious that this knowledge is of vital importance for every lawyer and judge in Mexico in just a couple of years,” Loranca explains.
Judge David Erickson, director of the university partnership at Chicago-Kent, believes that adopting the new system will be an ongoing process for Mexico, but believes the work invested in the Oral Trial Advocacy Program will pay off because the school and students are “invested in it, and they want change.”
With USAID support, more than 20 active TIES partnerships throughout Mexico are collaboratively addressing common concerns and advancing Mexico’s competitiveness in the global market.