Monday, at the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, Justice Edgardo Rivera García gave the keynote address to 29 judges from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Peru in San Juan, Puerto Rico as part of the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) training program, a collaborative effort between the Department of Justice and Department of State to build the capacity of the judiciaries of the Western Hemisphere.
As a frequent contributor to the JSI program, Justice Rivera García stressed the importance of the judges’ contribution to rule of law in the hemisphere and lauded them for their role in the transformation of Latin American justice.
With the support of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Department of Justice’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 to an adversarial system.
Through instruction conducted in Spanish, practical exercises, and observations of courtroom proceedings, the JSI program provides judges with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the fundamental principles, benefits, and challenges of the adversarial system. This capacity building is critical to the region as the judge’s role in the adversarial system is different from that in the inquisitorial system. In the inquisitorial system, the judge is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, whereas in the adversarial system, the role of the judge is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense.
Throughout 2018, judges from 10 Latin American countries will participate in JSI courses covering topics such as the development of rules of evidence, proportionality in sentencing, and opinion writing. While each country’s transition to the adversarial system has been unique, the judges who have participated in the JSI program have displayed the same dedication to improving and strengthening the transparency and efficiency of their respective criminal justice systems.
“The Judicial Studies Institute’s work with Latin American judges as their justice systems transition to adversarial systems is pivotal to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice throughout the hemisphere, which in turn promotes security throughout the region,” said Faye S. Ehrenstamm, Director of OPDAT. “This would not be possible without both the deep commitment of the judiciaries from participating countries and the tremendous contributions by the U.S. federal and state judiciaries. OPDAT is proud to be associated with JSI and its many contributions to the region.”
Since 2012, JSI, with its partners at the University of Puerto Rico and Inter-American University law schools, has hosted over 700 Latin American judges from 12 countries. The program continues to expand with the introduction of a mentoring component for JSI alumni in 2017, and new course offerings on special topics including digital and electronic evidence, opinion writing, and asset forfeiture added to the curriculum each year.