Today at the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor addressed virtually 24 judges from Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, and Panama as part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) training program for Western Hemisphere judiciaries. Justice Sotomayor stressed the importance of their contributions to the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere and lauded them for their roles in transforming 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, during which many countries transitioned from inquisitorial to adversarial systems 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, among other important topics.
This capacity building is critical to the region, as there are significant differences between the two systems. 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 judicial counterparts the opportunity to learn practical skills, encouraging JSI alumni to become agents of change within their judiciaries. Many DOJ-trained JSI alumni been able to go on to serve as force multipliers in the region, imparting their training within their own judiciary and for future OPDAT programs.
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 1,000 Latin American judges. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of this important and sustainable project.
Please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-opdat for more information about OPDAT’s capacity-building efforts around the world.