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Julian Cardenas
Research Professor
Director, Center for U.S. and Mexican Law


Professor Cardenas joined the University of Houston Law Center in 2012 as an Energy Scholar and a Visiting Professor affiliated to the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Center (EENR Center), focusing on transnational petroleum law and arbitration. As a visiting professor, he has taught the investment law of major industrial projects (energy, mining, and construction), arbitration, and oil and gas industry practices at the Universalized Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL) in Monterrey, and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México – ITAM, in Mexico City, Mexico; the University Externado, in Bogota, Colombia; the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil and the University Paris Sud, France.

He frequently works with companies, public authorities, and governments in various areas of oil and gas law and policy. At the EENR Center, he is the coordinator of the "Inter-American Hydrocarbons Regulators Dialogue," an initiative conceived to create a nexus between national hydrocarbons agencies, the private sector, and the academia. Since June 2019, he sits on the Ad Hoc Administrative Board of Directors of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the Venezuelan National Oil Company.

Before joining the EENR Center, he worked as a foreign legal clerk at the Arbitration Department of Dewey & Leboeuf in Paris, and also served for nearly six years as a career diplomat for the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working on multilateral affairs with the Organization of the American States (OAS) and the United Nations (U.N.), and bilateral affairs related to sovereign boundary issues. He works effectively in Spanish, French, and English, and has some working proficiency in Portuguese.

He holds a law degree and a B.A. in International Relations from the Universidad Central de Venezuela; a Master of Laws in Arbitration and a Diplôme Superieur d'Université in Business Law from the Sorbonne University Paris II Pantheon-Assas; and an LL.M. with a Certificate in Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Law from the University of Houston Law Center. He was a Doctoral Fellow at the Research Center for Investment and International Trade Law (CREDIMI-CNRS) at the University of Bourgogne, Dijon, France.

Since has been appointed in September 2022 as the Director of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at UHLC.

Law Faculty

Sandra Guerra Thompson

Sandra Guerra Thompson

Sandra Guerra Thompson is the University of Houston Law Foundation Professor of Law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center. Thompson has authored numerous articles on criminal law topics such as eyewitness identification and wrongful conviction, immigration crimes, jury discrimination, police interrogations, federal sentencing, and asset forfeiture. In 2009, she was appointed as the representative of Texas public law schools on the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions which was created by the legislature to propose statutory reforms to curb wrongful convictions. She co-edited a new book entitled American Justice in the Age of Innocence, an anthology about wrongful convictions that includes articles written by her seminar students. She served as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office where she practiced both trial and appellate criminal law from 1988-1990. 

She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and was appointed to the Board of Advisors for the Institute's sentencing reform project. In 2000, she served as chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schools.  Thompson holds undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.  Thompson is fluent in Spanish.

Affiliate Scholars

Affiliate Scholars of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law participate actively in research and educational projects undertaken by the Center. The inclusion of Affiliate Scholars expands the reach of the Center's programs, and also permits a broad range of viewpoints and expertise in guiding the projects and activities of the Center.

José Ramón Cossío Díaz, Distinguished Jurist in Residence

José Ramón Cossío Díaz, Distinguished Jurist in Residence 

José Ramón Cossío Díaz, a Justice of the Mexican Supreme Court, is one of Mexico's leading jurists. In 2011, he accepted a position with the University of Houston Law Center as Distinguished Jurist in Residence, to collaborate actively on research and educational programs through the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law. Cossío will not receive any honoraria for his work with the Center.

A renowned constitutional law scholar, Cossío was Professor of Constitutional Law and Dean at ITAM Law School in Mexico City before being appointed to a fifteen-year term on the Mexican Supreme Court in 2004. Cossío was born in Mexico City in 1960, and graduated with honors from University of Colima School of Law. In 1988, he received a doctorate, summa cum laude, in Constitutional Law and Political Science from Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

The main focus of Cossío's work has been on constitutional law, although he also has done extensive research and writing in other legal fields. He has authored 19 books and more than 500 articles published in academic journals, law reviews, digests and newspapers. He has received many distinguishing awards and acknowledgments, among them the National Research Prize in the Social Sciences from the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 1998, and the National Science and Arts Award in 2009. The National Academy of Medicine granted him a special recognition in 2010 for his contribution to the strengthening of links between law and medicine. He is a member of distinguished academic, scientific and professional institutes and boards, such as the National Research Network, the American Law Institute, the Mexican Bar Association, the Sciences Advisory Board, the National Institute of Genomic Medicine, and the Mexican Foundation for Health. He also participates in the editing boards of several specialized reviews, both domestic and international. In addition to his judicial duties, Cossío continues to teach Constitutional Law at ITAM University.

Ricardo Colmenter

Ricardo Colmenter

Ricardo Colmenter is an Affiliate Scholar for International Energy Programs at the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law and the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Center (EENR) at the University of Houston Law Center. He holds a JD from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, a LLM International Intellectual Property, Lund University Sweden and a LLM Intellectual Property & Information Law, University of Houston Law Center.

He is Director of Entra Consulting, an international consulting firm that includes oil and gas industry professionals with valuable international, commercial and regulatory experience. Before founding Entra Consulting, Colmenter was General Counsel for the Western Hemisphere of Weatherford International, a member of Halliburton law department, partner at Johnson and Cato and Legal Director of the Venezuelan Patent and Trademark Office. 

Colmenter, a highly respected international energy law expert, has taught as an adjunct professor with the University of Houston's Intellectual Property and Information Law Institute. Colmenter is lead chairman and program director for advance training courses for National Oil Companies' legal departments, such as Pemex (Mexico's state oil company, Petroecuador (Ecuador's state oil company), Ecopetrol (Colombia) and Petrobras (Brazil 's state oil companies)  and regulator (CNH and Secretaria de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador). In addition, he has written numerous books and articles regarding international oil transactions, technology transfers in the oil industry and oil and gas international business.

Colmenter's practice centers on transactional law with a strong business view, which involves structuring multi-million dollar energy integral services contracts, joint operational agreements, licenses, production sharing agreements, mergers and acquisitions in the oil industry and sophisticated oil and gas projects. He has more than 15 years of oil and gas international business experience and advises national oil companies, energy regulator and service companies in Latin America. Colmenter was included in the 2015 edition of the Corporate Counsel 100 Latin America (Legal 500), which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region.

Guillermo J. Garcia Sanchez

Guillermo J. Garcia Sanchez

Guillermo J. Garcia Sanchez is a Mexican lawyer with expertise in international law. He holds a B.A. in Law and a B.A. in International Relations from ITAM University in Mexico where he achieved the highest honors and several awards for his research on the international law of transboundary hydrocarbon resources in the Gulf of Mexico. Before being admitted to Harvard Law School´s Doctoral Program (S.J.D.), he obtained an LL.M. in International Law from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 2011.  Before beginning his doctoral program, he was an Associate in an international law firm, where he practiced international investment arbitration with a focus on cases related to hydrocarbons in Latin America. He has presented amicus briefs before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and has advised the Mexican Government on matters of international law.  His current lines of research include international adjudication, international investment law, the law of transboundary resources and comparative constitutional law. 

Robert Lutz
Robert E. Lutz

Robert E. Lutz is Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on International Business Transactions Law, International Trade Law, International Litigation and Arbitration, Public International Law, and other international legal topics. He has also taught in the Summer Law Institute of Southwestern, University of New Mexico, and Texas Tech, at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. He was the Editor-in-Chief of THE INTERNATIONAL LAWYER, a co-founder-editor of the ECOLOGY LAW QUARTERLY, is a member of many editorial boards of legal publications, and is the author of numerous articles in leading law and business journals, op-ed pieces, topic-focused books and several textbooks on a large variety of international legal and business subjects. He is also frequently appointed as an arbitrator for international public and private commercial disputes (e.g., NAFTA, WTO, ICDR); and often serves as a consultant to law firms on international legal matters and disputes.

Prof. Lutz is a member of the California Bar and is a former Chair (2001-2) of the Section of International Law (SIL) of the American Bar Association (ABA), the Los Angeles County Bar's International Law Section, and the Association of American Law Schools' (AALS) International Law Section. Prof. Lutz recently served on the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20; he previously chaired the ABA's Task Force on International Trade in Legal Services (ITILS) (and continues as a member), was the Chair of SIL's Transnational Legal Practice Committee (5 years) and the California Bar's International Ethics Committee. He participated on SIL's Outsourcing Committee and 20/20's Technology Committee which developed the proposed ABA approach to "outsourcing" and cloud-computing issues. He has served on the Executive Committee of the ABA Center for Human Rights and on the Board of ABA-Africa, and was recently appointed to the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. For many years he was a member of the U.S. Department of State's Advisory Committee on International Law and is a long-time member of the Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Dispute Resolution to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Prof. Lutz continues to lead the U.S. legal profession's efforts to address the issues of transnational legal practice. He has led legal delegations to foreign countries and organized and chaired a number of "Summits" of legal services leaders focused on Asia, Europe and Latin America and, recently, India, Korea, and the "global" practice of leading firms. Prof. Lutz's memberships in organizations include: American Law Institute (Life Member); American Bar Foundation (Life Member); Pacific Council on International Policy; American Society of International Law; Phi Beta Kappa, Inns of Court; and the Chancery Club (L.A.).
Richard McLaughlin
Richard McLaughlin

Richard McLaughlin is an Endowed Chair for Marine Policy and Law at the Harte Research
Institute for Gulf of México Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. He received a J.S.D., Doctorate in Law at the University of California at Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law in 1997 and a LL.M., Masters in Marine Law and Policy at the University of Washington School of Law in 1987. He graduated J.D., Cum Laude from Tulane University School of Law (1985) and A.B., Cum Laude at Humboldt State University (1978).

Dr. McLaughlin joined Harte Research Institute in June 2005. As the first of the Endowed Chairs to join the team, his knowledge of marine policy and legal issues including the international law of the sea, ocean energy policies, ocean governance, and marine ecosystem-based management provide an important context for application and integration of his colleagues' scientific findings. Incorporating well-developed public policy into scientific, economic, and social issues offers decision makers an added framework in which to work.

He has been actively involved in a variety of leadership positions in the marine policy field, is a former Fulbright Scholar to Japan and has published over sixty articles and monographs on ocean and coastal policy issues. In the classroom, his instruction has included Admiralty; Coastal Management and Ocean Law; and Environment/Marine Policy. Dr. McLaughlin works with a number of non-profit organizations to support his focus on policy and law. He actively participates in professional conferences as an organizer and speaker. In 2007, he led the Law of The Sea Institute Conference focusing on the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

Embracing the "Harte Model," Dr. McLaughlin serves on the research teams of several current projects including the CAMEO Project and Texas Coastal Program Assessment and Strategies Report, which includes each of the Harte Research Institute disciplines. He has also studied strategic application of policy for the stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico, managing transboundary marine resources, policy issues affecting habitat restoration and conservation, and conflicts, gaps, and needs of ecosystem based management.
Alberto Avila

Dr. Alberto Abad Suárez Ávila

Alberto Abad Suárez Ávila is a Full-time Professor-Researcher at Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (IIJ-UNAM) in Mexico city. He received his PhD in Law (summa cum laude) from the same institution in 2012. His doctoral research project received the "Caminos de la Justicia en México 1810-1910-2010" prize, awarded by the Mexican Supreme Court, in 2009. He was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the Universidad de California, Berkeley in 2009 and a visiting researcher at the Max Planck-Institut for Comparative and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany in 2008. In 2007. he received the Ignacio I. Vallarta medal for best student, awarded by School of Law at UNAM. Also, he was the first-place winner of the "Gender and Justice" essay contest, organized by the Mexican Supreme Court and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He is the founding director of the web page, which is dedicated to raising consciousness and observing human rights work in Mexico. He belongs to the Law and Society Association and the Harvard IGLP Network. He speaks Spanish, English, and Portuguese. His research interests are Legal Sociology, Human Rights, Constitutional Courts, Health Law and Criminal Law.

Collaborating Faculty

Lydia Tiede

Lydia Tiede

Lydia Tiede is an an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston.  She has a Masters  degree in Latin American Studies and a PhD in political science both from the University of California, San Diego.  Prior to pursuing her PhD she worked as an immigration attorney in San Diego representing asylum seekers and immigrant women.  Her current research focuses on studying criminal law reform and the behavior of judges on high courts in Latin America.  She also does comparative research on the rule of law in developing countries.  Her articles have appeared in Latin American Politics and SocietyWorld Development and the Journal of Empirical Studies.  Besides work on Latin America, Dr. Tiede has  served as a rule of law liaison in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and most recently completed an empirical analysis of sentencing decisions in this country for the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Dr. Tiede teaches courses on public law, judicial politics and comparative judicial systems.

Jerónimo Cortina

Jerónimo Cortina

Jeronimo Cortina is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston.  He also teaches in University of Houston's Center for Mexican American Studies,  and is a Research Associate at the Center for Public Policy.  He earned a PhD in Political Science from Columbia University, as well as a Masters degrees in Public Administration and Public Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs. Dr. Cortina specializes on survey research, immigration, and quantitative methods. His work has been published in scholarly and policy journals such as the American Politics Research JournalForeign Affairs in Spanish, and the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. His latest books include (with Andrew Gelman, David Park, Boris Shor)"Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do" published by Princeton University Press, "A Quantitative Tour of the Social Sciences" published by Cambridge University Press (with Andrew Gelman) and  "New Perspectives on International Migration and Development" (with Enrique Ochoa-Reza) with Columbia University Press.

Pablo Pinto

Pablo Pinto

Pablo M. Pinto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, and co-editor of the journal Economics & Politics. Pinto holds an M.A. from Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, and a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego. He also received a Law Degree from Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina. Prior to joining the University of Houston in 2014, Pinto was a member of the faculty of Columbia University. He taught at the Escuela Nacional de Gobierno in his native Argentina, and the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, where he founded and directed the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies. He also worked as Chief Counsel for Toyota Argentina. Pinto's areas of expertise are international and comparative political economy, comparative politics, and quantitative methods. His research can be organized thematically around six related areas: the political economy of foreign direct investment, sourcing and the activity of multinational corporations; the causes and consequences of economic integration; the role of ideology, socialization and self-interest in the formation of individual preferences towards globalization; the domestic and international determinants of growth, development fiscal policy and taxation; political representation, turnout and voting; and randomization inference using observational data. Pinto is the author of Partisan Investment in the Global Economy (Cambridge University Press) and co-author of Politics and FDI (Michigan University Press). His research has been published in International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, Legislative Studies Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, Economics & Politics, Political Analysis, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, the Review of International Political Economy, edited volumes and other outlets.

Johanna Lutrell

Johanna is a post-doctoral Visiting Scholar on Political Philosophy at the Hobby School of Public Affairs. She had her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oregon in 2013. She was in 2011 a Visiting Graduate Student, at University of Oxford in Politics and International Relations. She had a B.A., from DePaul University, in Philosophy and English in 2006. Her expertise is in Social and Political Philosophy, global poverty, the Capabilities Approach, human rights, urban development under globalization, global feminisms

Visiting Scholar

Aubin Nzaou

Aubin Nzaou

Aubin Nzaou is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow in Law and Energy Policy, Fellow of the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources (EENR) Center, and Associate Fellow of the Center of U.S. and Mexican Law at the University of Houston Law Center (U.S.). In his current position, he conducts research on Energy Transition from the legal perspective in the framework of the project “TGL“, which aims at analyzing the important role of non-state actors, as Oil and Gas companies, and relies on the question, “What prospects for an active role of non-state actors in the energy transition governance?”. He is also Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Center for European Studies (CEE), and at the Research Group of Comparative, European and International Law at Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 (France), where he works on Energy Law from both International and Municipal perspective.

Prior to joining the University of Houston Law Center, Dr. Nzaou was a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Management of the University of Nîmes (France), Fellow of the CHROME Research Group (Detection, Evaluation, Management of CHRONIC AND EMERGING Risks) as well as Faculty Member at the Department of Law, Economics and Management. He also was an Invited Lecturer at Senghor University, Alexandria (Egypt) from 2016 to 2018, at General Lansana Conté University of Sonfonia, Conacry (Guinea) in 2018, and an Associate Lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University Lumière of Lyon 2, Lyon (France) in 2014, as well a Visiting Scholar at the Research Center for Environmental and Urban Planning Law (SERES), and fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Legal Science of the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) in 2013.

Aubin Nzaou holds a Ph.D. in the fields of Public International Law and Public Law from Jean-Moulin University Lyon 3, whose dissertation examined the challenging interaction of Oil and Gas Production and Environmental Stewardship in Congo (Brazzaville), and has completed a Postgraduate Program in Business Sustainability Management focused on the implementation of sustainability goals and strategies in Oil and Gas corporate activities, and a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership at University of Cambridge.

Dr. Nzaou is currently a member of the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) and a fellow of the Platform on International Energy Governance, established within the framework of University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and University College of London. He also has joined the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (AIPN).

He speaks 5 languages: French, English, Lingala, Kikongo and Vili.

Program Manager

Moriah Daniels

Jamie Zarate

Jamie has worked as a program manager and administrator in the public and non-profit sectors since 2012.  He has both Spanish and Mandarin language skills, he studied International Relations and World Cultures and hopes to attend UHLC in the future.  Jamie assists the Director with planning and implementation of educational and professional development programming hosted by the center, as it strives to increase the value of its contribution to US-Mexico relations.

Work Studies

Celeste Elias

Celeste Elias

Celeste is a first year student attending the University of Houston pursuing a B.S in Psychology. As a work-study for the Center of U.S. and Mexican Law, Celeste hopes to expand her knowledge of the business and administrative field and to explore potential career interests. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors whether she is traveling or just sitting in a hammock outside her house in the company of her siblings and dog.

Celeste Elias

Felix Gomez Umanzor

Felix is currently a student at the C.T Bauer College of Business within the University of Houston and wants to earn a BBA in Management Information Systems. He enjoys working out, reading comic books, and watching Japanese animation.