Moot Court Helps Mexican Students Prepare for Accusatorial System

August 2012

Enrique Cruz was due to graduate with a law degree from Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez in the State of Oaxaca. While excited to become a lawyer, his schooling hadn't provided opportunities to build the practical skills he'd need to practice under Mexico’s new accusatorial justice system. Fortunately, two of Enrique’s classmates convinced him to join his school’s moot court team. A national moot court competition was being hosted by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Colegio Jurista law school, and would be held in Cuernavaca, Morelos, in May 2012.

The first round of the competition consisted of two preliminary hearings (arraignment and bail), with each presided over by a different set of judges.

The first round of the competition consisted of two preliminary hearings (arraignment and bail), with each presided over by a different set of judges.

In the ten weeks leading up to the competition, Enrique and his teammates prepared by watching oral trial videos, writing arguments for pre-selected cases, preparing briefs and delivering oral arguments before their classmates and professors. They also met with forensic experts who taught them to analyze evidence properly. Despite many financial and logistical challenges, the students worked hard, practicing for up to 12 hours a day.

Imitating trials under the Mexican system, competition hearings were presided over by three judges, composed of judges, attorneys and law professors from various Mexican states. The first round of the competition consisted of two preliminary hearings (arraignment and bail), with each presided over by a different set of judges. Teams were judged on several trial skills, including case theory, and direct- and cross-examination. After two stressful days of four preliminary and two oral trial rounds, Enrique and his team advanced to the final round, which simulated an entire oral trial proceeding, including opening statement, direct- and cross-examination of witnesses, and closing argument.

The team from the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez defeated the team from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez in a very close contest, and won 30,000 Mexican pesos (about 2,200 USD) and a one-year subscription to one of the most reputed legal information databases in Mexico.

A total of 101 students from 17 states, organized into 24 teams, participated in the competition. The Instituto de Justicia Procesal Penal, A.C., the Morelos state legislature, the Morelos Human Rights Commission, the Morelos Superior Court, the Municipality of Cuernavaca and the Morelos Technical Secretariat for the Implementation of the Reform supported the competition. Mexico’s new accusatorial system has been introduced in several states, and it will be introduced in all states by 2016. Supported by the United States Agency for International Development, ABA ROLI will continue to host moot court competitions and to support the implementation of the accusatorial system in Mexico.

To learn more about our work in Mexico, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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