Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

December 03, 2007
January Symposia Tackle Torts and Latin American Legal Reform

Southwestern will host two Symposia in January - Perspectives on Asbestos Litigation and Abandoning the Inquisitor: Latin America's Criminal Procedure Revolution. A third symposium on wrongful convictions is set for February and will be detailed in the next issue.

Abestos removal sign
Perspectives on Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos litigation is America's longest-lasting mass tort phenomenon, and its importance only continues to grow. A recent study confirms that by 2009, asbestos will have killed nearly a quarter million people and injured millions more. As of 2002, approximately 730,000 people had filed asbestos claims against 8,400 corporate and other entities, which have spent $70 billion on asbestos litigation, with only $30 billion, or 42 percent of the total, going to the injured claimants. Southwestern University Law Review presents Perspectives on Asbestos Litigation on Friday, January 18 offering a comprehensive look at this unique problem, while seeking to initiate a multilateral dialogue dedicated to synthesis and solutions - all in a unique format that moves from the most practical issues to the most theoretical, political and sociological.

This unprecedented crisis, in turn, has spawned a variety of dramatic responses, often in the name of efficiency, or fairness, or both. Counsel has experimented with large-scale group settlement processes, multidistrict litigation, class actions and case consolidations. Courts have created deferred and expedited dockets, entertained novel bellwether trials and improvised innovative approaches to complex questions of expert testimony, causation and apportionment of liability. Even Congress has become involved, amending the bankruptcy code and drafting a bill to create a public compensation fund. By assembling speakers with diverse experiences and viewpoints and juxtaposing them in provocative panels, this conference places these developments in perspective. The symposium is free for students to attend, but an RSVP to is required. For more information, click here.

photo collage with gavel
Abandoning the Inquisitor:
Latin America's Criminal
Procedure Revolution

Starting with reforms in Argentina in 1991, Latin America has seen a revolution to establish adversarial, oral proceedings and options for abbreviated trial processes. The Southwestern Journal of Law and Trade in the Americas presents Abandoning the Inquisitor: Latin America's Criminal Procedure Revolution, a one-day symposium on Friday, January 25 that will bring together leading legal figures to analyze the reforms achieved in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela, the ongoing reforms and debates in Mexico, the role of international organizations in the reform process, and recent developments to follow European moves toward jury trials.

From independence until 1991, every country of Latin America used an inquisitorial system based on an initially secret investigation by a judge, in which witnesses offered testimony before court officials who summarized their testimony in a dossier. In many countries, the same judge who supervised the investigation would determine guilt, and often the judge would not even hear the witnesses but merely read another court official's summary of testimony. Over that last 17 years, Latin American countries have broken with the past to reform the system with oral trial proceedings before a judge who has not participated in the investigation process, increased roles for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, and other alternatives. But the movement has not touched every country.

Abandoning the Inquisitor takes place under the auspices of a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Higher Education for Development (HED) funded partnership between Southwestern and the Instituto Tecnol├│gico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, in collaboration with the ABA Section of International Law, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) and Texas Tech University School of Law. The symposium is free for students to attend, but an RSVP to is required. For more information, click here.