While Ecuador’s transition from an inquisitorial to an adversarial justice system is steadily progressing, the lack of standardized curricula in law schools threatens to undermine the education of future attorneys. Moreover, a substantial number of practicing attorneys have never received adequate training on the system.
Operating under a recent follow-on grant from the U.S. Department of State, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has expanded its offerings in trial advocacy training for law schools and bar associations, strengthening the transparency component of the training by promoting ethics in all of its workshops. Last month, ABA ROLI conducted two separate trainings on trial advocacy skills in criminal cases in the city of Cuenca. Following presentations and discussions, participating students and attorneys practiced trial skills side-by-side with international instructors.
From May 19–21, ABA ROLI held its university course on oral trial skills in criminal cases, featuring instructors from Colombia and the United States. About 80 students from five law schools in Cuenca attended the workshop on the investigation, development and presentation of a criminal case under the adversarial legal system. The course included two days of lectures and small group sessions, and culminated with a mock trial competition. Judge Carlos F.Lucero of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and Juan Morales Ordóñez, a law professor and former Ecuadorian Supreme Court justice, presented a special section on ethics. Throughout the training, the instructors stressed the importance of candor, integrity and dignity in the trial process and in the legal profession in general.
Additionally, from May 20–24, ABA ROLI held a series of four university workshops on oral trial skills in criminal cases, offering some 150 students an overview of the criminal trial process in a lecture format. In response to a high demand, the trainings were offered three times in Quito and once in Cuenca. Students from the International Law School and the Central Law School, and members of the Quito Bar Association attended the courses.
ABA ROLI Country Director Al Amado said, “It is really difficult for law students and practitioners to have access to the quality of training we provide free of charge. Hearing from international presenters is rare, and practicing skills side-by-side with them is rarer still.”
ABA ROLI will expand the ethics component of this program by including an enhanced module that highlights the potential ethical issues faced by judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors during a trial. Future ethics courses will highlight best practices for all judicial operators.
To ensure sustainability, ABA ROLI strives to strengthen ties with the country’s universities and encourages their law schools to incorporate standardized trial-skills courses and a mandatory ethics course in their curricula. On April 28, Amado facilitated a meeting with five law schools in Cuenca. During the meeting, the law schools agreed to create a network of law schools, which would help strengthen judicial research; incorporate the study of oral criminal litigation and applied ethics in law curricula; and encourage progressive involvement of institutional actors to promote academic improvement.
“This agreement is an important first step toward comprehensive, country-wide curricular reform,” said Amado, “Since Cuenca is viewed as a leader in legal education, this should help spur other major law schools toward moving in this direction.”
Last year, ABA ROLI trained nearly 1,200 law students, judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, police and practicing attorneys in Ecuador. This year, it aims to double that number through targeted, high-quality seminars.
To learn more about our work in Ecuador, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].