Published: April 12, 2012

Fifteen Colorado Law students in the Comparative Family Law seminar spent eight days traveling across Ecuador and researching criminal justice and child protection law from the perspective of another culture.   

Led by Professors Colene Robinson and Ann England, students met with judges and the heads of government agencies in Quito, infusing their seminar papers with primary source research. The group also conducted in-person interviews with staff attorneys, local lawyers, law students, law professors, prisoners, juveniles, children, staff at NGOs, and indigenous community members, learning about how the legal process works on a practical level.  

Students co-taught Universidad de San Francisco law school classes on criminal justice and family law, and were greeted by Ecuadorian law school students who shared their ideas about juvenile justice. With the assistance of the American Bar Association Role of Law initiative, Colorado Law students had unparalleled access to the people, lawyers, and staff who compose the legal community of Quito. The interviews and observation opportunities helped students experience the legal system in action.

Visits to the women’s prison in Quito and an orphanage for street children, and seeing the children of incarcerated parents, revealed the need for attorneys devoted to defending the rights of children. The trip concluded with a visit to an indigenous community–Chibuleo of San Francisco–where students experienced a fierce soccer game and enjoyed traditional cuisine, including guinea pig.  

This research trip allowed the class to examine the criminalization of behavior in the United States as compared to Ecuador, and called into question some of the practices and norms enforced domestically.

“These contrasts exposed for students and faculty the assumptions we make about how and why our laws, and our legal processes, are just,” Robinson said.