The Center for the Administration of Justice was established in 1984 as a unit of the College of Health and Urban Affairs (CHUA) at Florida International University to engage in research, training and public education about the administration of justice in Florida and Latin America. With offices in Miami and overseas, CAJ has become a unique international resource at the forefront of justice sector reform in this hemisphere.
"CAJ's pioneering work called the attention of international agencies and the entire international community towards the justice sector problems in Latin American countries," said Roberto Cuellar, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. "Because of it, law reform, modernization of judicial structures, and judicial training are, among others, essential components of the international cooperation that is trying to strengthen rule of law and democracy in the Latin American region."
CAJ employs a multidisciplinary and international staff of specialists, including lawyers, political scientists, public administrators and public policy analysts. It has become a leading source of information and leadership on justice sector reform issues in Latin America. Its assessments have been widely disseminated and have been critical in shaping public policy throughout the region. The Center is also involved in research, technical assistance, preparation of reports and publications, training, and dissemination of information through the mass media. For the last three years, CAJ has supported a website for the dissemination and free downloading of its publications. Public education has, and continues to be, one of its primary missions.
Since its inception, the Center has been at the forefront of research and planning in the field of justice administration in Latin America. "While being an academic entity, we stress our ability to identify and solve problems through the adoption of cost-effective and practical solutions," said Luis Salas, Director of the Center. "Our in-house expertise combined with an extensive multicultural network of experts and resources allows us to provide high quality services to public sector clients throughout the hemisphere."
International agencies have recognized CAJ's capacity to deliver quality work in a timely fashion while ensuring sound fiscal management of donor's funds. These agencies have awarded over $22 million dollars to CAJ since 1984.
Giving special emphasis on support to local efforts to strengthen and invigorate fair and independent justice systems, the CAJ regularly works with public officials, scholars and practitioners in Latin America.
"The Center's activities have had a profound and positive impact in all areas of justice administration in Latin America," said Justice Daniel Gonzalez Alvarez, President of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica.
The Center advances its academic mission by sponsoring workshops and seminars, producing publications, entering into academic exchange programs and participating in academic workshops and meetings. "We have held national workshops in six countries to review the state of the justice and to encourage national leaders to address concerns raised at these sessions," said Salas. Additionally, we have conducted national seminars to review specific issues facing the sector. CAJ has also managed regional conferences on major issues, including: information systems technologies, media-justice relations, court administration, gender issues facing the justice sector, alternative dispute resolution, property registration systems, civil procedure, and the impact of the justice system on indigenous communities. Additionally, CAJ has cosponsored meetings of Presidents of Latin American Supreme Courts and Presidents of Central American Supreme Courts to discuss common issues facing their systems.
In addition to these activities in furtherance of the improvement of the administration of justice in Latin America. “We have conducted a variety of workshops in Florida dealing with the State’s justice system,” said Salas. “Two years ago, for example, we cosponsored a workshop with the Dade County Bar Association on public ethics in South Florida. We have also sponsored training seminars on domestic violence and juvenile crime in Miami-Dade County and this year CAJ sponsored a regional workshop in Orlando on the problem of domestic violence in Central Florida and the justice system's response."
CAJ has entered into academic cooperation agreements with a number of foreign academic institutions. As part of these agreements, Center staff participated in workshops sponsored by law faculties in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Israel, Nicaragua, Panama, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
In addition to its international mission, CAJ is cognizant of its responsibilities to Florida and has been engaged in a series of crime prevention initiatives in the State. The goal of this program, funded by Florida’s Attorney General, is to educate Hispanics on crime prevention and the operation of the legal system. This is a project that began in 1995 with the goal of reducing the incidence of crime in the Hispanic community and to inform this community about the operation of Florida’s justice system.
“The future holds great promise for the Center as the FIU College of Law becomes a reality,” said Salas. “The FIU law school will have a unique impact on the Center given its focus on law reform.”