Mexican and U.S. Justice Sector Officials Celebrate Launch of Mexico’s First Judicial Bench Book for New Accusatory Criminal Justice System
June 3, 2022, Mexico, City – The Mexican federal judiciary, the Mexico City state judiciary, the Puebla state judiciary, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) launched their Bench Book for Criminal Hearings and Trials, which is designed to increase judicial economy, decrease caseloads, and standardize judicial practices across Mexico. With funding from the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), this resource will serve as an effective and practical tool for justice sector actors including criminal judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel across the country.
This judicial bench book is the first designed specifically for Mexico’s accusatory criminal justice system, which was fully implemented in 2016. They will build national capacity in the system and encourage the sustainable standardization of best practices. With standardized procedures for criminal hearings thanks to the Bench Book, criminal justice actors will efficiently establish all required elements within their respective hearings, resulting in sturdier convictions, fewer successful appeals, and less criminal impunity.
Over the past three years, OPDAT, 25 Mexican judges, and three Colombian judges with bench book experience worked tirelessly to compose standards for a Mexican Bench Book. Then, multiple institutions, to include the federal Attorney General’s Office and Public Defender’s Office, took part in the revision of the Bench Book, which ensured the final product is a true collaborative effort by multiple Mexican institutions.
Officials from state and federal judiciaries, state attorney general offices, and other institutions that helped create and revise the guide attended the launch. U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar, who delivered opening remarks, stated “As a former state attorney general I know just how important bench books can be. And what a great collaboration between the U.S. government and all sorts of Mexican officials. This is the Seguridad Compartida we’re continually talking about, in action.”
Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, Alfredo Gutierrez Ortiz Mena, also participated in the inauguration and stated, “These guidelines not only define the nature and timing of roles, but also support said roles in jurisprudence, allowing to strategize.”
After the bench books’ dissemination, OPDAT and the federal judiciary will implement a monitoring and evaluation plan to show how effective the book is at reducing average hearing durations, and minimizing unnecessary delays and appeals.