Yesterday at the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor virtually addressed 22 judges from Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru as part of a Department of Justice training program for the judiciaries of the Western Hemisphere. Justice Sotomayor stressed the importance of their contribution to the rule of law in the hemisphere and lauded them for their role in the transformation of Latin American justice.
With the support of Justice Sotomayor, and in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Justice Department’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) launched JSI in 2012 as a response to the wave of justice sector reforms in Latin America that saw many countries transition from an inquisitorial to an adversarial system of justice. Through Spanish instruction, practical exercises, and observations of courtroom proceedings, participating judges learned about evidentiary guidelines, the role of judges, courtroom management in an adversarial justice system, human smuggling, and judging without gender bias, among other important topics.
This capacity building is critical to the region as there are significant differences between the two judicial system models. For example, in an inquisitorial system, judges investigate charges and determine guilt through written deliberations behind closed doors. In an adversarial system, the judge acts as an impartial referee responsible for weighing evidence and guaranteeing the rights of both the victim and the accused in an open courtroom setting. JSI offers judges practical skills, and JSI alumni become agents of change within their judiciary. Many have been able to impart what they have learned through trainings within their own judiciary system and at OPDAT-sponsored events.
Since establishing JSI in 2012, OPDAT and its partners at the University of Puerto Rico and Inter-American University law schools, the Puerto Rico State Judiciary, and the U.S. Federal Judiciary have trained over 1,114 Latin American judges.
Please visit www.justice.gov/criminal-opdat for more information about OPDAT’s capacity building efforts around the world.