The large-scale shift to telework brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting businesses around the world to explore new avenues to engage with clients and friends. Harris Bricken is no exception, and we are proud to announce our new podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench.
In Episode #18, we talk with Patricia Almada, a Mexican criminal defense attorney. Topics covered include:
- How criminal practice differs in Mexico from common-law jurisdictions such as the United States.
- The due process implications of the shift to online hearings in Mexico and elsewhere as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Concerns over Mexican government initiatives that jeopardizes property and contractual rights.
- The Constellation Brands controversy in Mexicali.
- Being a woman in Mexico’s male-heavy criminal courts.
- Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:
- Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner
- North America: Time for a New Focus, a Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored International Task Force report
- Tinder, Sailor, Hooker, Pimp: The U.S. Navy’s sex trafficking scandal in Bahrain (Military Times), by Geoff Ziezulewicz
We’ll see you next week for another discussion on the global business environment as we discuss the plight of the Uyghur people with Rayhan Asat.
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 0:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other, developing and developed nations wax and wane and their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase, laws and regulations change incessantly, requiring businesses to stay nimble.
How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global lawn business, hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort
Jonathan Bench 0:34
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday, we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments and locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 0:59
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us via email and social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
Today, we are delighted to have Patricia Alameda Beltran with us born in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Lisa is a graduate of the escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City. She also has an LLM from California Western School of Law. He has worked as a prosecutor focusing on financial crime, and is now an attorney in private practice handling criminal and other cases. Patricia, welcome to our podcast.
Patricia Almada 1:47
Hello, Fred. Thank you very much for having me here.
Jonathan Bench 1:50
Patricia. We’re very excited to learn from you today. Fred and I largely practice in the international business space. We’ve had some opportunities to learn about corporate commercial systems. We’re Why’d but we don’t really know anything about criminal law because that’s largely done by local attorneys even in the United States. So for listeners who are familiar with the Anglo American legal tradition, can you give us an overview of what the Mexican Criminal Lawyers work consists of?
Patricia Almada 2:15
Yes. Basically, Criminal Lawyers defend individuals or entities that have been charged with a crime. Also, if you are a prosecutor or private lawyer protecting the interests of the victim, you can collaborate with a maturity in order to pursue the accusation. The majority of Criminal Lawyers we handle a diverse spectrum of criminal cases, ranging from white collar crimes or as fraud, money, laundry, drugs, crimes, to violence crimes like or sex crime. Nevertheless, the tenants here here in Mexico last from decades ago has been the specific decision on or expertise in certain group of crimes. The criminal charges against someone can be local meaning criminal charges has been presented in any state of a country as well can be federal crimes. I think you have it the same in United States. And we also take care of the procedures before appellate courts. And as you may know, here in Mexico, we also have the juicio de amparo in cases of constitutional belly ation that take place in any point of the criminal process. So that’s in general terms what we do.
Fred Rocafort 3:38
Patricia the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing all sorts of changes to our societies and in fact, this this podcast started in part as a result of the the pandemic and the desire of our law firm to reach out to them To our audience in in a way that that that allowed us to, to do so while maintaining social distance. The legal world more broadly is is not exempt from the impact of the Coronavirus emergency. One thing we have seen here in the United States is a shift on the part of courts towards online proceedings we are seeing the main courts such as the Supreme Court move in that direction, but also some some local courts. I know that that Mexico is seeing some some issues that are related to this phenomenon. Could you please tell us about this?
Patricia Almada 4:46
Yes, thank you for this is a very challenging area because as you know, my practice is in criminal area. So you have to be or make a difference between the areas that you can go online or the hearings before the hearings. Because in the criminal process, you have certain constitutional rights and certain principles that you must always warranty and protect. So the from the point of view of the principles, the right to be in front of the judge, this is in order to assure he or she will witness everything that is going to be happened in the criminal hearings. Another principle as the publicity has, for me, from my point of view, has practical banish because not not only because you cannot go online and be a public online, because there is no platform right now. The courts of federal ones or local ones can impact meant to allow the people to go in, in these hearings. So, I think in, especially in the criminal process, these these rights must be warrantied all the time with COVID-19 or without it. I see papers, newspapers, around all the all the country and also in South America, that you can analyze that some courts are establishing that in the criminal process. If you have these kind of humans in the oral trials, these are unconstitutional, because you are lacking of protect and this these rights. So I think, even when we have a lot of voices that say that we cannot avoid or eliminate this evolution and We’ll be in some point the future, we must found a way to guarantee all the rights that are writing in the constitution in order to be due process.
Jonathan Bench 7:14
Most of our focus in Harris Bricken is on international companies that invest overseas. That includes Mexico, especially as a rising alternative to China. So we are always on the lookout for anything that could impact business conditions and important markets. We understand that Mexico has had some legal reforms that could have implications for private property rights and contractual rights more generally. There are other developments in this regard as well, such as the halting of production at foreign owned breweries in Mexico. Can you tell us a little bit more about all of this?
Patricia Almada 7:43
Yes, thank you. Um, this is this. These are they have me very concerned as a lawyer and also as a citizenof Mexico. I tell you why, in May, a group of centers from the majority of the political group called Morena here in Mexico, the lever proposition to reform the federal civil code. This proposition these guys by COVID 19 emergency, among other things, established serious consequences for private property, because these reforms exceeded the supposed goals that must achieve these goals. They said it was to help the tenants in disadvantage, because of the lack of work that produced by the pandemia suggest to adapt the amount of the rent or even eliminate eliminate the payment. We have to say that it was not clear in the reform in the proposition if this decrease will be directly or proportional to the decrease in the income of the tenants also it was not clear which we be the legal process to do it. And now also was not clear how much time this will last. Everyone can believe that will last the pandemia. But what if the pandemia take or last one to three years. This big parameters, besides of being very imprecise affect legality in all kinds of transactions, and also I think will open, very, very problematic door for abuses and inequalities among the parties, because the owner who also are having a big trouble with this situation, and maybe the rent that he received is the only way of leaving and because of this proposition, they will be obligated to support not only calamities of the pandemic, but also the calamities of the tenant on their own shoulders. So, I think the the problematic is that they are seeing this reform from only one point of view and they they are not looking to establish a good situation among everyone. So, I think if you you take it from the point of view of humanities and obviously, communication and agreements can be settled among the tenant and the owner. But if a legal reform take place must be under on perfection and clarity of the parameters that will be applied to the people. The state, I think, always must guarantee the continuity of the institution there are recognized in our Constitution. So, private property and contractual freedom cannot be nullified without the system of our society. So I believe this is a very problematic area very problematic reform. I have to say you that right right now is this topic because because a lot of commotion in the society, especially for the owners, and we we hope this never passed to the Congress, but still in the in the Congress waiting to be approved. So I hope never, never this happen.
Fred Rocafort 11:38
You know, Patricia, we here in the United States, we are hearing echoes of this kind of concern during the recent protests that have been taking place and in their friend, differences cities in the US and of course, some of the commentary That is being made about these protests online. Some of the demands that some people are making involve rent reduction, or even in some cases, right, they they talk about canceling rent. And personally, I share some of the concerns that you share. I mean, I’ve been a renter for most of my life. So I understand of course, of course, an obligation and and, and sometimes it can be stressful to make sure that you have enough money to pay rent, but at the same time, I think it’s important to for renters and other people to put themselves in the shoes of the landlord, the person who worked hard perhaps, to do in order to obtain that property so that they could make some additional rental income. So I think as you as you put it, you put it, you put it very, very well. It’s important to look at at all the perspectives here. And and not focus on on one particular side of it. Before we move on from this topic, I was wondering if perhaps you could you could talk a little bit about what’s been happening with the with the breweries. My understanding is that the the corona are the company that makes Corona they have other brands as well. They’ve been one of the affected companies. So perhaps you could just tell us a little bit about what’s happening with with with beer in regard to this issue?
Patricia Almada 13:36
Yes, this is our issue very related with the one we already talked about because is related with the contractual freedom. The constellation brand case can be summarized in the following facts. In one side, you have local farmers in Mexicali, Baja California, that argue that this company is going to end all the disposable water in the sun. They, they were very concerned because they use the land to produce and if they don’t have water, you will eliminate the possibilities of their own way of living. In the other hands, you have an international and very important company that say that he has all the permits of the government and he will not end the water of the sun. And he will be provide a Mexico with work and with world. So what people say in wire they keep on resisting this construction of the company. They say this company only want cheap work and also cheap water. They don’t care about the Mexican people, the Mexican community. These two arguments are important. But you have to establish the position of the people that are there fronting this ideas before the legality. So if they have a problem, you must resolve the problem with the law in the hand. I don’t know by sure if constellation brand had or not had at the moment that he became the construction, the permits that they say they have. But the situation here is is very, very, very dramatic because this is what was not resolved upon the law. This was resolved upon our public consultation. The President our country say, Oh, I am worried. I’m going to ask a few people, how many people we don’t know why Sure. Someone says that 5% of the population of Baja California, not even all the country. So the concern here they international concern for all the investors are if you are going to take off a contract of me without law, just because you decided, that is a very, very problematic situation. And in further causation, I’m not going to invest in Mexico. That is the issue. There is a problem. So we have as a country, as a business man, we have to assure everyone who wants to invest in Mexico that your contracts must be secure. Or if you are going to have a problem, you must resolve them before a judge not before people that can have a different opinion than you. So this is mainly the problematic with this brewery and I think is not easy. We have a very, very bad reviews from the International point of view. And obviously it’s problematic be because it’s not only one case. We also seen in their in their airport of the skolkovo. And also we seen in another popular consultations that our president like to do in order to satisfy the their desires and also to do not apply the law. So is very is a very concerned issue.
Fred Rocafort 17:46
Patricia, turning now to to a more personal topic. I know that you earned an LLM at California Western School of Law in San Diego. As a matter of fact when when we met for the first time in San Diego, I had just given a lecture at the at the school, although this was after after your time there as a student. But in any case, this degree I’m sure gives you a unique perspective on the US legal system. How has this educational experience as well as the time that you have spent here in the United States influenced your your legal practice?
Patricia Almada 18:29
I love this, this approach because let me put you in a little bit of time before I give you the answer. Here in Mexico in 2008, took place a very important reform that eliminate our prior criminal system. That was a mainly our writing and inquisitorial system in order to give way to an adversarial system similar to the one that you have and in your country. So, from here, the system change, the rules change and the principles of the process also change. So from all the Criminal Lawyers, we start to see an everyone with the necessity to study again. For me the opportunity to study in the United States, one of the countries that have more experience in this kind of system, it was very, very grateful because I learn and other points of view, I have the opportunity to analyze the regions of that point of view and also to have a better understanding of the changes that will take place in my country. So these provide me, I think with a lot of arguments, arguments that, in fact, I’ve been using a lot of my, in my hearings, I definitely developed my legal research skills. And also I did take knowledge and to be more aware of these development and recent ideas that are taking place in all the criminal structure in our process. So I love to study in San Diego. I think the teachers were very patient with us, because we were from all Latin America, and indeed, we’re trying to show us with clarity what you have since more than 200 years ago. So it gave me a very, very big scope of how to approach in our new criminal process. I enjoy So much.
Jonathan Bench 21:01
We’d like to ask you about your experience as a woman in the legal profession and especially the Mexican legal profession. What changes have you seen during your career? And what trends positive and negative Have you seen?
Patricia Almada 21:12
Well, my experience as a woman in the criminal practice has been always in writing, but it was not easy. And still not easy because we still have gender tennis’s that we have to fight. And even when we now see a lot of woman in the criminal practice, especially as prosecutor and prosecutor offices or a judge, or even in administrative areas, I believe we still lacking of the participation of woman in the defense in the hearings. Every time I must tell you, every time that I am on a hearing, I found myself surrounded by by men’s always there’s a team of men, and I mostly have the time the only woman in the hearing. So it’s been quite a challenge. But every day that told me and I learned something regarding the changes that I see, I noticed that in the schools every year, I see more and more woman’s. But as I already say, the majority choose other fields and the criminal practice and in this matter, I think, and I hope that your new criminal system will slowly give more confidence to this younger woman to practice and in the criminal area. And another change that I also see in is a vector related with this edition of the prior system because as you know, we were very criticized about the corruption and the darkness of the prior system. I think this new approach this new system, give us everyday more and more A new understanding and adopting more good practices. And with the coming of the years, I hope that things will become something that we are and not something that we we do. So this is mainly the changes that I witness.
Jonathan Bench 23:23
If you could give some advice to younger lawyers, especially younger female lawyers or younger women who are thinking about getting into the field of law, either in the US or Mexico, what kind of advice would you give them if you were talking to them today?
Patricia Almada 23:36
The first advice is to, to practice. If you don’t go to hearings, if you don’t work besides the lawyer that is going to the to the hearings, you’ll never lose the fear to be in front of a judge. So it’s very useful to to go to the to the humans to talk with the client, to know your case, and and to be slowly be more confident about what you say and what you do and how you say it. Because I see a lot, a lot of these in the in the hearings, when you are, like nervous and that you can see that in the voice of the people. So if you don’t practice you never will learn, so you have to give it a try. That’s the first advice.
Fred Rocafort 24:30
Patricia, one thing we like to do in on the podcast is ask our guests for recommendations. And this way, we not only benefit from the knowledge and stories that you share with us here, but also give our listeners and ourselves more opportunities to benefit from the sources that are helping you gain a better understanding of the world. So with that in mind that I’d like To to ask you if you could recommend either a book or a movie or magazine article, Netflix series, whatever it is that you think would be of interest to our audience.
Patricia Almada 25:12
Oh, yes. Fred, I’m reading a book that I love is called making your case by Antonin Scalia. He was adjusted from the Supreme Court of the United States. And I love this book because if it has a point of view, very practical, and the outer give a very good advice on how to convince with your argument and is very clear, is very practice is very easy to read is a amazing book I recommend to all lawyers, not only Criminal Lawyers, if you are a play lawyer, or any area that you practice, this is very good for you. And it’s amazing how in these book they are to approach some things that you can think of as obvious, but they are not obvious. One example is and I always laugh when I read that page, because they are to say, you must know your case. If you if you analyze this idea, you say, which lawyer do not know his case, but it’s amazing how many times you are in a hearing and a judge asked for something to the to the lawyers to the principal lawyers that are in talking in the hearing, and they do not know by sure the number of the page, where is the information that the judge is solicitation, so he’s dating, and it’s almost embarrassing to present that. So that that kinds of advice is very useful and remind you how to finishing in the hearings with with agility and analytic skills is a very good book.
Fred Rocafort 27:09
Definitely something that I look forward to picking up. I mean, speaking of Scalia, I think he certainly has this reputation as being I think he’s most people would the first thing they think about when they when they hear of Scalia are his politics, but actually when you when you read his his decisions, right, and there’s and not only his his decisions, but some of his his work, his academic work, there’s definitely a lot more. One thing that I find interesting about Justice Scalia, is how, in a way he admired some of the aspects of the of the civil systems I think, in many ways. He thought our system should adopt some of the concern with sticking close to the statutory language, etc. And I think in fact, he had a law review article or something he wrote where he, I think that was that was part of the title, you know, as some involving the, you know, move towards illegal civil law system or something like that. But thanks. Thanks for that. Jonathan. What about you? What What do you have for us?
Jonathan Bench 28:28
Well, since we’ve been focusing on Mexico lately, I found a white paper done by the Council on Foreign Relations back in October 2014. It’s called North America: Time for a New Focus. It’s a 150 page white paper, but it focuses on North America as a coherent whole. We’re talking about Canada, US and Mexico. And this was of course four years ago before the US MCA was signed, that was about 18 months ago. So it focuses on North American energy and interdependent on our economic competitiveness or security on our community. Really All aspects of our, our joint relationship. So I know this was done under the prior administration, but at the same time with the way that China has come into disfavor rapidly in the past couple of years, I think that we’re seeing the strategy bear out that if anything, the US is playing closer to home, but we’re not excluding Canada. We’re not excluding Mexico. And certainly there are different ways about how we think we should engage with our neighbors. But I think that the idea that we’re going to be a US that’s focused on the us and our immediate neighbors you know, all of us together first certainly rings throughout all of this. Fred, what do you have for us?
Fred Rocafort 29:36
Well, first of all, on the subject of Mexico, this is not so much specific recommendation as is more of a general exploitation for for listeners to to read up a little bit about the US Mexico Canada trade agreement, US MCA I’ve actually because of the work I do with with customs matters. I’ve participated in a few webinars and had the opportunity to learn about the different changes at conferences, etc. But I think it’s the reason I make this suggestion is there’s a feeling out there are that there haven’t been that many substantive changes to the old NAFTA. And in a way that’s true. I mean, I think in general terms the spirit of the of NAFTA remains remains there but but there are important changes and even if you’re not a trade practitioner, even if you’re not that interested in the in the nuts and bolts, what what is interesting is to see this as an example of how priorities change over time and ever the evolution in in the thinking so you have an original agreement from the 1990s and this newer version, I accounts for much of what has happened since so so it’s as a as a historical matter if you if you enjoy the study of history, it’s a great example of legal evolution in terms of actual recommendations. So this is an article from the military times, and it’s got a great title and an also a very descriptive one tender sailor hooker, pimp, the US Navy’s sex trafficking scandal in Bahrain. So great use of the john lecarre a novel title there or adaptation of it, but this was actually a fascinating article. Yeah, as as the title suggests, it does talk about pretty pretty salacious events in in Bahrain where the where the US Navy has a very important base, but I thought the article really touched on a lot of different things. And it’s a very international cast. You know, he involves American sailors and law enforcement the hosts in Bahrain the the the women involved in this are from the Philippines from Thailand. So all in all a very interesting story. And frankly, it opened up you know, it opened my eyes to the reality in Bahrain I I would have thought it would, you know, I didn’t it’s certainly given me a new perspective on what what modern day Bahrain looks like. But it’s a fascinating article, ultimately, the the story is a sad one, but there’s certainly a lot of a lot of color to it and a lot of interesting, I learned a lot. Let’s put it that way. So again, Tinder, Sailor Hooker Pimp the US Navy’s sex Trafficking Scandal in Bahrain, you can find it online. It was published on June 16. of this year and the author is I’m going to butcher this, Jeff, tell you what, I’m not even going to have this, assuming it’s a Polish or Eastern European surname. But yeah, I think it’s better for everyone if I if I don’t take a stab at it.
Jonathan Bench 33:29
Patricia, thank you for being with us today. We learned so much from you and appreciate your first hand account of your experiences. We hope that we can catch up again with you for a future episode. And then you can catch us up on any recent developments since then.
Patricia Almada 33:42
Thank you very much for inviting me. I enjoyed a lot of this conversation with you. And I’d be glad to talk again anytime you like. Thank you again.
Jonathan Bench 33:54
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue to discuss developments and Global law in business and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai