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UF Reaches Out to the Americas

Published: October 31st, 2005

Category: News

The Levin College of Law has long had a notable presence in Latin America. For decades, law faculty have been traveling to the political capitals and scholarly centers of Central and South America, forging ties with law schools and making contacts with political players throughout the region.

Now the law school has launched a program devoted solely to promoting those ties. The Law and Policy in the Americas Program, founded this semester, is dedicated to using UF’s legal expertise to foster the rule of law in Latin America and strengthening UF’s ties with the region.

The program coordinates the activities of the University of Florida’s Center for Governmental Responsibility, Center for Latin American Studies, the International Center, and the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) as they relate to law, policy and relations in the Americas.

Program Director Meredith Fensom will teach interdisciplinary, graduate-level seminars on issues related to the program’s mission. She will also coordinate student and faculty exchanges intended to increase UF’s profile and influence in Latin America. Students and faculty affiliated with the program will carry out a research agenda on topics related to the rule of law and justice reform, and will provide technical assistance in regional judicial reform efforts.

Fensom recently returned from a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in Chile, where she assisted in that country’s judicial reform process including projects related to civil and commercial legal and procedural reform, the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in judicial reform, and analysis of military court jurisdiction over all cases related to Chile’s Carabineros, the country’s police.

Fensom has lived in Brazil and studied financial markets there. She has also lived in Argentina, where she researched the prospects for democracy and challenges presented by a weak rule of law.

Fensom will be back in Chile next week, presenting her model for a small claims court there. Earlier in October, she traveled to Costa Rica, securing a position for a UF law student at the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos (or Interamerican Institute for Human Rights), which is affiliated with the Interamerican Court for Human Rights. The program, she said, is also exploring externship opportunities through the American Chamber of Commerce in Costa Rica.

The program is assuming responsibility for organizing UF’s Legal and Policy Issues in the Americas Conference, an annual meeting which brings together scholars and political leaders from across the Western Hemisphere to discuss the rule of law, trade and human rights. The next conference, scheduled for May 2006, will be held in Lima, Peru.

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