UH has established the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law as the nation’s first independent research center dedicated to the study of Mexican law and U.S. – Mexico legal relations.
“The goal of the center is to improve our understanding in the United States of Mexican law and legal institutions. People who are not acquainted with law might think of law as just a bunch of rules, but those rules are attached to the culture of a society,” said Stephen Zamora, a UH law professor.
“You can’t understand how the laws of a country work without understanding the culture. For the United States, Mexico is an important ally. We don’t have as thorough of an understanding of Mexico’s legal culture as we should.”
Zamora will serve as the center’s director and attorney Ignacio Pinto-León will serve as assistant director. Pinto-Leon is uniquely qualified for the position because he is licensed to practice law in both the U.S. and Mexico, Zamora said.
The center was created to institutionalize some current projects and create a place within the Law Center for permanent study of Mexican law.
“In addition to elements of economic integration, there are social elements and interconnections between citizens of Mexico and the U.S,” Zamora said.
“Part of what the center must do is help us better understand our neighbor, in order to make suggestions and consider possible ways to improve the legal relations between our nations.”
Mexico has become an even more important economic partner of the U.S. due to the formation of NAFTA in 1994. Houston boasts strong Mexican investment on a corporate and individual level coupled with proximity, making it a perfect location for the new center.
“UH has a reputation as a law school that has excellent ties with Mexico, and we have students who come to the University of Houston because of our excellent international law program,” Zamora said.
“Law students who are at the University of Houston will become engaged in this center, helping us as research assistants and participating in conferences and programs that we put on.”
One of the research projects the center is developing deals with deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the possible conflicts in legal regulations between the two countries.
“We want to take an independent look at what the governments and corporations are doing in order to ensure this shared resource is protected,” Zamora said.
“The value we provide will be our binational approach — it’s not going to be a U.S. or Mexican study, it’s going to be a binational study. The results will be made available to agencies and corporations so it can be used to adopt best practices for dealing with the exploitation of resources in the gulf.”
The center will partner with the North American Consortium on Legal Education and has obtained cooperation agreements with the Mexican Foreign Ministry and Petroleos Mexicano.
Through this collaboration the UHLC will provide L.L.M. degree scholarships for lawyers and in turn the partners will provide internships for UH law students.
“My vision for the center is to make it known that at UH, there is a center for high quality study of Mexican law and legal aspects of U.S.-Mexico relations,” Zamora said.
“We are committed to very high quality research and related activities.”