California Western School of Law takes another giant step in expanding its role as a major learning center for Latin American attorneys and judges with the successful launch of the LL.M. program for Spanish-speaking lawyers on Friday, August 22. Dean Niels B. Schaumann welcomed the lawyers with remarks in Spanish during the opening ceremony.
Thirty-three attorneys from six different Latin American countries are at the law school for a week for the start of a year-long course about the U.S. legal system—with a concentration in oral advocacy. The rest of the course will be taught online and is the first program of its kind in the world to mix a residential requirement, live classes online, recorded video, uploaded video, and one-to-one tutorials and mentoring.
This LL.M. program builds on California Western’s reputation of empowering a new generation of legal change advocates in Latin America and supports the ongoing transition to the adversarial system of criminal procedure from the inquisitorial system of criminal procedure.
"Combining online learning with a residency program allows us to provide skills training at a low cost while still developing deep connections with our students," says Professor Justin P. Brooks, co-director of the program. "This LL.M. program is built on California Western's long term commitment to training programs in Latin America. I'm proud that we are a part of the staggering changes to the justice systems throughout the region."
"It is never easy to change hundreds of years of any legal procedures, particularly ones based on the Spanish Inquisition,” says Professor James M. Cooper, co-director of the program.” To do this, California Western has, for more than a decade and a half, helped empower a new generation of legal change agents ready to participate and lead in the judicial reform underway in Latin America. Our new LL.M. program is the logical next step and a wonderful way to continue this important work."
The attorneys and judges come from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic. The visiting legal professionals are excited about being in San Diego and participating in the program.
Amalia Infante Arce, a defense attorney from Mexico City, took part in a trial skills academy here at California Western earlier this year and says it was a great experience.
“This will strengthen my abilities,” Infante says. “And the opportunity to have people from other countries in the course makes it a better experience.”
Gloria Bustillos Vargas, a family law attorney from the Mexican state of Hidalgo, says since her country wants to introduce a legal system similar to the U.S. system, “the best option is to study here at one of the best law schools.”
“I’ve known California Western for more than 15 years,” says Angel Valencia Vasquez, from Santiago, Chile. “I have great confidence that this is going to be an excellent LL.M. program.”
Mirna Ortiz Fernandez is a prosecutor in the Dominican Republic and has studied the U.S. legal system extensively.
“Knowing the U.S. system is important because ours is a copy of yours, and here I can study the roots of the system,” Ortiz says.
Ortiz adds that she thinks San Diego is a beautiful city and the people are very nice.
Through its ACCESO Capacitación program, California Western School of Law has been working in Latin America for more than 17 years, training thousands of lawyers, judges, and judicial administrators in judicial innovations such as oral trial skills, DNA analysis, alternative sentencing, mediation, computer forensics, and drug treatment courts.
"It is one thing to build a few new courtrooms and pass legislation to make trials more transparent,” says Cooper. “What we are doing, however, is human capacity training to make sure that these reforms are real and can be sustained."