Today, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer addressed 32 judges from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama and Peru as part of a Department of Justice training program at the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the judiciaries of the Western Hemisphere.
Justice Breyer stressed the importance of their contribution to rule of law in the hemisphere and lauded them for their role in the transformation of Latin American justice. Justice Breyer also met separately with a special delegation from Mexico that included a Supreme Court Justice, with whom he discussed their country’s ongoing justice reform.
Through Spanish instruction, practical exercises and opportunities to observe courtroom proceedings, judges who participated in the JSI program learned about evidentiary guidelines, the role of judges and courtroom management in an accusatorial justice system. This capacity building is critical to the region as judges’ roles are drastically different from those in an inquisitorial system, where judges decide cases based on paper files behind closed doors. In an accusatorial system, judges are responsible for writing opinions, weighing evidence and guaranteeing the rights of both the victims and the accused, all in an open courtroom setting.
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 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 that saw many countries transition to an accusatorial system. Since that time, OPDAT, with its partners at the University of Puerto Rico and Inter-American University law schools, has hosted over 500 Latin American judges.
Please visit https://www.supremecourt.gov/ for more information about the U.S. Supreme Court and https://www.justice.gov/criminal-opdat for more information about OPDAT’s capacity-building efforts around the world.