University of San Diego Hosts Training for Mexican Prosecutors and Public Defenders

From August 10 to August 13, The University of San Diego (USD) and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) join together for an international program to promote legal education and cross-border exchange in the San Diego-Baja California region.  

Through the program, USD School of Law, the USD Trans-Border Institute, and the UABC School of Law are partnering with the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) to offer training to prepare Mexican lawyers for ambitious new reforms intended to improve the administration of justice in Baja California and throughout Mexico. 

Experienced U.S. lawyers from USD, CWAG, the California Department of Justice, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, the Universidad Panamericana, and other professionals dedicated to international oral advocacy training are demonstrating practical courtroom skills used in the United States to their counterparts from Mexico. 

For participants, the program provides a unique opportunity for Mexican prosecutors and public defenders to work together. “This allows both sides of a typically adversarial process to learn together and from each other,” said Susan Lustig, the administrative director of CWAG’s Alliance Partnership, whose work in Mexico focuses on the training of judges, prosecutors, criminal investigators, and forensic scientists.

In August 2010, the state of Baja California adopted new legal procedures for criminal cases, in anticipation of national level reforms approved by the Mexican Congress and the current administration of President Felipe Calderón. These reforms have initiated a transition from Mexico's long-standing inquisitorial system of criminal justice to a more rights-based accusatorial system, with similarities to the one used in the United States. 

The educational program currently being hosted at USD is focused on providing the skills and knowledge needed in the kind of oral trials found in the United States. “While they are steeped in U.S. legal experience, our trainers are also bilingual and bicultural,” said USD Law Professor Allen Snyder, “which means that they are able to surpass some of the barriers that often complicate this kind of bi-national training.” 

The program will take place over four days and will teach both Mexican prosecutors and public defenders about trial advocacy skills, such as opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. According to David Shirk, a USD academic who studies judicial reform in Mexico, “The success of this new system hinges on whether the country’s lawyers and judges are comfortable and competent working under an entirely different set of rules.”  

The program will close on Saturday with a mock trial presided by judges from Baja California, as well as a closing ceremony to distribute certificates of completion to all of the participants. UABC’s director of the alliance, Daniel Solorio said, “We are confident that our faculty and colleagues will benefit greatly from this exchange, and we hope that this experience will help them to deal with the many challenges involved in switching to a new criminal justice system.”

The UABC-USD legal education program is supported by a grant awarded to the University of San Diego by Higher Education for Development (HED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). CWAG’s Alliance Partnership is also supported by a generous grant from USAID. The joint training program being offered currently at USD is coordinated by USD School of Law Professor Allen Snyder, USD Trans-Border Institute Director David Shirk, UABC Law Professor Daniel Solorio, and CWAG’s Alliance Partnership Administrative Director Susan Lustig.

About USD School of Law

The University of San Diego School of Law is a center of academic excellence focused on preparing its students for legal practice in the new century.  One of the most selective law schools in the country, the School of Law’s nationally recognized faculty create a demanding, yet welcoming environment that emphasizes individualized education.  USD law school graduates consistently score higher than the state average on the California Bar Exam and go on to practice law throughout the country and abroad, forming an influential network of alumni.  The USD School of Law is one of only 80 law schools in the country to have a chapter of The Order of the Coif, the most distinguished rank of American law schools. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools.  Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949. Please visit the Web site at for more information.

About USD Trans-Border Institute 

The Trans-Border Institute (TBI) was created in 1994 with two main objectives:  to promote border-related scholarship, activities and community at the University of San Diego, and to promote an active role for the University in the cross-border community. To realize these objectives, the Institute engages in a variety of programmatic activities and initiatives, including its Justice in Mexico Project ( and its Summer Seminar in Border Studies. In 2007, TBI joined the newly formed Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. 

About CWAG

The Conference of Western Attorneys General provides a bipartisan forum for state prosecutors to cultivate knowledge, cooperate on concerns and coordinate actions which improve legal services available to members, consumers, industry and government agencies. CWAG addresses emerging legal topics along with focusing on common areas of interest to the west: water, fish and wildlife, public lands, minerals, environmental protection and Indian law.

About UABC-Mexicali

The Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) is one of 43 publicly funded universities in Mexico, and as the public university system for the state of Baja California served over 40,000 students at its three campuses in Mexicali, Tijuana, and Ensenada in 2010. The UABC law school in Mexicali formally began offering classes in 1973, and provides courses in criminal, civil, and comparative law. The law school also offers a wide range of academic activities, and allows students to choose elective courses according to their interest. The School of Law was one of several campus facilities that were severely damaged by the 7.2-magnitude Mexicali earthquake of 2010.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.