School of Law News
USD Law Professor Continues Trans-Border Institute's Work with Baja California Law Schools
University of San Diego School of Law Professor David Brennan works with four Baja California law schools–Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC)-Mexicali, UABC-Tijuana, UABC-Ensenada and University Ibero-American–to create, administer and execute two programs that prepare law students for the changing legal landscape in Baja California. The first program is a collection of six classes known as the Academy which prepares law students for the new legal realities of the Mexican criminal justice system. The second program is the UABC-Clinical Intern Program, which places students in legal offices in Mexicali for school credit.
Major reforms in a number of Mexican states have substantially changed the administration of criminal justice. The state of Baja California is preparing for the transition from Mexico's long-standing inquisitorial system of criminal justice to a more rights-based accusatorial system, which requires oral trials, the right to confront accusers and witnesses in open court, use of three-judge panels, and a requirement that all judicial decisions are rendered in open court.
A group of 32 law students participating in the Academy were handpicked from the four participating schools of law. Students receive training to develop their skills in making opening and closing statements, conducting direct and cross examinations, using experts, learning trial strategies and practices that have become part of the new transparent trial system. At the final session, students will be paired in teams of two to conduct an oral trial be based on the case-problem being used during the weekly academy classes before a practicing judge. "These programs enable the Baja California law school students to actually experience a new level of skills training that will be required for future participation in their reformed criminal justice system." said Brennan.
The UABC-Clinical Intern Program in Mexicali is managed by Lic. Jorge Diaz Zazueta, head of Mexicali's public defenders. The six student participants were screened and selected to participate in placements at the offices of the prosecutor, defender and trial courts in Mexicali. In these placements, they participate and assist in the functions of the prosecutors, defenders and courts. This provides a new and unique hands-on experience in the criminal justice system.
The Academy and the Clinical Intern Program mark another step in the USD-UABC Legal Education Program that are products of an ongoing collaborative effort involving University of San Diego School of Law, the Trans-Border Institutes (TBI), the Baja California Attorney General's office, and four Baja California law schools: UABC-Mexicali, UABC-Tijuana, UABC-Ensenada and University Ibero-American.
"This mode of collaboration paves the way for future exchanges and joint-endeavors among the academics and law professionals from both sides of the border," said Brennan.
These changes have required extensive training of judges, prosecutors and defenders during the last three years, including those under the USD-UABC Legal Education Program that were conducted repeatedly in Mexicali, Tijuana and Ensenada, under the direction of Professor Allen Snyder. This program has been working with professionals in the legal field practicing in Baja California to prepare them for the changes to the legal landscape in Mexico.
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