Siderman Fellow Explores American Approach to Criminal Law and Procedure
Federico Ramos is the 2010-2011 Fulbright-Jose Siderman Human Rights Fellow at Southwestern. In an effort to promote the training of young Argentine lawyers in civil liberties and human rights, the family of Jose Siderman and the Fulbright Commission in Argentina established the specialized fellowship at Southwestern in 2008. The Fellowship brings an Argentine law graduate to Los Angeles to complete an LL.M. degree in Civil Liberties and Human Rights or Advocacy at the law school, including an externship with a civil rights organization. The fellowship complements the association Southwestern has maintained for many years with Argentina through summer programs, judicial externships and exchange programs in Buenos Aires.
Ramos worked as an advisor to the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Argentina, where he defended claims against the State, mostly in instances involving criminal issues. "The State tried to use the cases as a tool for improving human rights conditions in my country," he said. "Sometimes, these cases may be used to suggest or make reforms or statutory changes."
He also served as Undersecretary of Prison Affairs where he oversaw more than 30 jails. During his tenure, he worked to eliminate overcrowding. "It required interacting with judges, public defenders and prosecutors," he said. "A lot of political decisions affect prison populations."
Ramos has also undertaken scholarly pursuits, writing about the prison system in Argentina and the treatment of prisoners. Having studied criminology and written about the theory of crime, he sees similar traits in prisoners around the world such as impoverished backgrounds with a lack of educational opportunities. For five years, he taught Criminal Law at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, School of Law. He enjoys teaching and practicing law equally.
While at Southwestern, Ramos has been studying Criminal Law with Professor Catherine Carpenter, Evidence and Constitutional Criminal Procedure with Professor Mark Cammack, Legal Writing with Professor Paul Bateman, and Introduction to American Law with Professor Sylvia Faerman. After the Spring semester ends, he will serve as an extern for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Professor Jonathan Miller helped make it possible for me to be here," Ramos said. "He's my academic advisor and he's always a person I can trust and consult with."
The Siderman Fellowship experience has provided Ramos with his first trip to Los Angeles and the West Coast, but he has been in the United States before. In 2009, he participated in the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affair's International Leadership Program on International Security Issues. That opportunity took him to New York, Washington D.C., and Houston, Texas. "It was a great way to see how different levels of government responded to natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina) and the Mexican gulf (BP oil rig explosion)," he said. "We went to the FBI, attended think tank meetings and visited the sea borders police."
Although he is not certain of the next step in his career when he returns to Buenos Aires with his wife and son, Ramos hopes to use the knowledge acquired during this program to improve his work in the public or private sector, and he will continue to teach.
"My experience at Southwestern has been great," he said. "If it wasn't for the fellowship, it would have been impossible for me to experience something like this. Everything I'm learning is important. The legal system here is completely different. In Argentina, we don't have Rules of Evidence or jury trials. It's all new to me and really helpful and interesting to learn."