USD's Justice in Mexico Receives $2.35 Million Grant

The University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico program has been awarded a $2.35 million grant to continue its work on the Oral Adversarial Skill-Building Immersion Seminar (OASIS).

This is the second round of funding awarded to Justice in Mexico by the International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) through the Merida Initiative. The goal is to conduct a new set of training courses, international study trips and symposia on oral adversarial litigation skills over the next two years.

OASIS advocacy training program is intended to provide skill building and exchange opportunities for legal professionals and students. The current INL-sponsored partnership will help law faculty and students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM), Mexico’s largest public university to improve the long-term functioning of the Mexican justice system in anticipation of major criminal procedural reforms to implemented by June 18, 2016.

OASIS has three specific objectives that will continue to guide Justice in Mexico’s efforts during years two and three of its partnership with UNAM: 1) provide three 40-hour litigation workshops to law professors and students of UNAM’s Law School, 2) provide three training/study tours to the United States; and 3) provide one international symposium on oral, adversarial, accusatory criminal justice systems, Mexico’s criminal justice reforms, and the role law schools will play in the transition to this new criminal justice system.

The OASIS grant employs a half dozen USD alumni and dozens more have collaborated with the project in recent years, giving them opportunities for hands on experience in project management and working with leading experts to make a difference in addressing real world policy issues.

Dr. David Shirk, director of Justice in Mexico, said “there are arguably few issues more important in Mexico and U.S.-Mexico relations today than strengthening the rule of law, security, and human rights. Our students and graduates are getting to be a direct part of that effort. In this sense, Justice in Mexico is one of the programs that helps realize and express our University's commitment to promoting social justice, not to mention to working with Mexico and the border community of which we are a part.”

“The OASIS program is unique in its duration and impact,” Dr. Shirk explains, “This kind of educational outreach and policy engagement is frankly not supported at major research institutions, which tend to be myopically focused on purely "academic" research. The fact that we've been able to sustain this program here—with generous support from private and government donors—is one of the things that helps make the University of San Diego such a unique place, both for our faculty and our students.” Over the course of the past year 240 UNAM law school professors and students have been trained in the OASIS program, and the new funding will allow Justice in Mexico to train 480 more over the next two years.

— Melissa Wagoner Olesen

Photo: Justice Alberto Pérez Dayán of the Mexican Supreme Court, Dr. Ma. Leoba Castañeda Rivas, Director of the UNAM Law School, and Dr. David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego. The photo was taken at OASIS international symposium held at UNAM Law School, Sept 24-25, 2015. Photo via: