Crowning the Fifth Annual Champion of Champions, A Mexico Mock-Trial Competition

On Monday, June 25, ABA ROLI and California Western School of Law hosted the fifth annual Mexican Mock Trial Champion of Champions competition, at American University's Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C.

This week, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in partnership with California Western School of Law, and with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), hosted the 5th Mexican Mock Trial Champion of Champions competition. Two teams, one from the Universidad Marista de Merida and one from the Universidad de Guanajuato, competed in the event. The event is an opportunity for Mexico's law students to showcase the skills they will use to advance the country's ongoing implementation of an accusatorial criminal justice system. The students argued their case before Glenn Kirschner, retired federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia; Hiram Puig-Lugo, associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; and Magín Tomas Puig-Monsen, a founding partner of Lavin Puig PLLC, a law firm specialized in corporate, diplomatic, immigration, and international trade law. After a close match, the victorious all-female team from Universidad Marista de Merida took home the 2018 Mexico's Champion of Champions trophy.

This competition is part of an ABA ROLI program designed to train law students and professors in the new criminal justice system. In 2008, Mexico’s constitution was amended to establish a new criminal justice system - a move away from the previous written-based system to an adversarial, oral-based system. Under the new system, the prosecution and defense present competing evidence and arguments in open court. As a result of the new system, many of the country’s laws and institutions required substantial updates, which has been a major transition for the entrenched practices of justice system officials, Mexico’s 32 states, and federal authorities. While the government of Mexico granted these legal leaders eight years to fully transition, the move has required additional support in order for legal actors to adhere to features of the justice system, such as the National Code of Penal Procedure (CPC). The creation of the CPC requires uniform oral, adversarial criminal trial process and provides rules for the various stages of investigation, prosecution, and punishment of crimes. Additionally, Mexico’s “National Law on Alternative and Restorative Justice Mechanisms on Criminal Justice” (“Ley Nacional de Mecanismos Alternativos de Solución de Controversias en Materia Penal”) expanded the use of alternative dispute resolution in criminal cases.

The deadline for the full implementation of the new criminal justice system in Mexico officially passed on June 18, 2016. Nonetheless, the majority of country's universities are at best in the incipient stages of adapting their curricula to teach courses on the accusatorial system, and are perhaps even further behind in alternative dispute resolution-related courses. Legal education in Mexico remains heavily theoretical, which poses a barrier for graduates; subsequently, opportunities such as the mock trial competition give the future legal leaders an opportunity to hone the skills they need for the new system. Since 2012, ABA ROLI has organized the competition and celebrated the competitors' development of strong oral litigation skills, which they've continued to use in real-world scenarios.

To learn more about the ABA Rule of Law Initiative's work in Mexico, please email