CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
This article will provide guidance on the Code of Civil Procedure in Dominican Republic. The French Civil Code of 1804 serves as the basis for the Dominican Republic's civil and commercial responsibility system. The litigation process is based on modernized and updated versions of French civil procedural laws from the nineteenth century.
Two levels of ordinary jurisdiction hear cases when the facts and the law are at issue. One level of exceptional jurisdiction, exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice, hears cases where only the law is at issue.
The Dominican Republic is a civilian, republican, democratic, and representative government, as stated in the Constitution. Each of the three departments of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—operates autonomously. For four years, the people of the Republic pick a President and Vice President to serve as the country's top executives.
Article 55, section 2 of the Constitution grants the President the power to issue decrees, rules, and instructions that are binding but may be changed by legislation. The President is responsible for publishing and promulgating these enactments. The President also has the authority to enter into treaties on behalf of the Dominican Republic with other countries; however, treaties are not legally binding on the country until both houses of Congress have confirmed them.
The National Congress consists of the Senate (the upper house) and the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house), both of which have legislative authority. A simple majority vote chooses all members of both houses. Members of Congress are elected for four-year terms and may run for office indefinitely.
The Supreme Court of Justice and all other Courts established by the Constitution or statutes wield Judicial Power. The Justices of the Peace, Courts of Appeal, Land Courts, Courts of First Instance, and finally the Supreme Court of Justice make up the hierarchy of courts. The Constitution also requires the establishment of a Court of Accounts to audit the federal government's spending and report its findings to Congress.
THE TIMELINE FOR A LAWSUIT IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The plaintiff initiates the lawsuit by submitting an introductory plea and giving the defendant notice of the lawsuit by a bailiff's act. The claimant must specify the court to hear the case, state the reasons for the complaint, and outline the petitions he will submit to the relevant court in the plea.
In the bailiff's act response to the plaintiff, the defendant has ten days to reveal the identity of his defense counsel. The claimant or petitioner next submits a request for a specific judge to be assigned by the tribunal. The appointed judge will set a date for the first hearing at the request of one of the parties and communicate to the other. At the first hearing, lawyers for both sides will present their cases to the presiding judge. Unless specific examples are shown, the arguments and filing of evidence (often documents) begin at the first hearing. Only in rare cases can testimony was given orally be accepted.
If either party requests it, the court will likely require them to provide an expert witness or expert evidence. This occurs when a specialist is called upon to provide an opinion on a particularly intricate or technical part of the case. An impartial civil judge is not actively involved. The only information he has to go on is what the parties provide; therefore, his choice will depend on what they show him. In most cases, the parties will ask the court to make a ruling.
LEGAL SYSTEMS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Supreme Court of Justice, the Court of Appeals, the Courts of First Instance, and the Justices of the Peace make up the legal system. Land Courts were formed simultaneously with the Torrens property system to serve as a distinct, specialized jurisdiction within the legal framework. There are also Labor Courts and the Tax Court (Territorio Contencioso Tributario), as well as Courts for Minors.
Any lawsuit filed against the President, the Vice President, or any other constitutionally protected figure must be presented to the Supreme Court. Hearing appeals of Cassation (Recurso de Casación) is one of the Supreme Court of Justice's primary responsibilities. In addition to hearing constitutionality challenges and regular appeals from the Courts of Appeals, it also considers appeals from the lower courts. When it comes to Judicial Power, the Supreme Court is in charge. It appoints all judges and court administrators, has ultimate disciplinary power over the whole Judicial Power, and determines judicial and administrative compensation.
There are ten different judicial districts in the Dominican Republic, each with its own Court of Appeals. Each court consists of five justices. The Court of Appeals is an appellate court that reviews cases that were originally decided by lower courts. The Courts of Appeals are first reviewed when allegations are made against magistrate judges, public prosecutors, or provincial governors. Separate Criminal and Civil Chambers might be established in these courts.
The Criminal and Civil or Commercial Chambers comprise the Courts of First Instance. The District might be split into Salas, or smaller courts, to manage the caseload better (referred to as Halls). There are twelve Criminal Courthouses and five Civil and Commercial Halls in the National District. The Chamber President uses a random procedure to assign the cases to the various chambers.
THE CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Decree of April 16, 1884, established the Código de Procedimiento Civil (Code of Civil Procedure). This Code, with a few tweaks here and there, is still widely used today. The French judicial system, which had been in place since Decree No. 58 in 1845, has been largely rendered obsolete by the most recent revisions to the Code. The criminal justice system in the Dominican Republic has undergone significant change with the adoption of this new Code. It uses an accusatory paradigm predicated on open, public, and often conflicting hearings, equips public prosecutors with the resources they need to investigate any violations, and allows them to offer other approaches to resolving criminal cases.
Justices of the peace, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Courts of Appeal, trial judges, and judges of the Criminal Courts (Jueces de la Ejecución de la Pena) all have the authority to hear and decide criminal cases. The Courts of First Instance consist of a single judge who examines cases involving misdemeanors with fines of up to two years imprisonment (or both penalties simultaneously). When a case involves a potential prison sentence of more than two years, the court increases to a panel of three judges. Their courts may also hear habeas corpus petitions.
THE PRE-ACTION CIVIL PROCEDURE IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The requirements of a pre-action claim in the Dominican Republic would primarily be a written process whereby the parties present the evidence they wish to be considered and analyzed to the judge. Mandatory submission of evidence only occurs in exceptional cases and by a specific court order issued by the presiding judge.
Litigious proceedings are divided into two degrees of ordinary jurisdiction; one where both the facts and the law are heard and one before the Supreme Court of Justice, concerned only with the proper application of the law. Ordinary jurisdiction is exercised before a civil and commercial judge in the first degree. In contrast, ordinary jurisdiction in the second degree is exercised by a civil chamber composed of five regular judges. Access to the Supreme Court of Justice is limited based on certain requirements pertaining to the amounts and the type of dispute involved.
The plaintiff initiates litigation by filing an introductory plea and notifying the defendant in accordance with the bailiff's act. In the plea the claimant must indicate the tribunal that will hear the case and provide a brief summary of the facts of the cause, stating the grounds for the suit and the petitions they will make to the competent tribunal.
The defendant has ten days to answer the plaintiff via bailiff´s act, indicating the name of their defense attorney(s). Then the claimant or the petitioner asks the tribunal to assign a judge to hear the case. At the request of one of the parties, the designated judge will fix a date for the first hearing which must be conveyed to the other party. This first hearing should be held with both the parties and the representative attorneys who may appear before the presiding judge.
The judge can order an expert witness or evidence at the parties´ request. This is when an expert is named to provide a report on a technical or complex aspect of the case. The Dominican legal system establishes that all those alleging a fact of law must prove it. Therefore it is up to the acting party to produce the evidence.
A civil process typically begins with notification of the complaint by the bailiff's act. Usually, the defendant has eight ‘frank days’ (ten calendar days) to answer, also by the bailiff act. Following this exchange of bailiff actions, the plaintiff must request a hearing date from the court clerk. This will kick off a series of hearings in which the parties will present their procedural motions and, at the final hearing, their merits arguments. Dominican judges usually lean towards simple solutions and opt for sophisticated solutions for complex problems only in exceptional cases.
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1. In the course of its regular legislative business, the Congress has two legislative sessions every year. Sessions 1 and 2 will commence on August 16 and February 27, respectively. Sessions typically last 90 days but may be prolonged by up to an additional 60 days if necessary.
2. The judgments of the Supreme Court of Justice are reported formally in the Boletn Judicial (Judicial Bulletin).
3. In accordance with Ley No. 169 of August 2, 1997, the Supreme Court of Justice is made up of sixteen Magistrates who are chosen by The National Council of the Magistrates. The President of the Supreme Court of Justice is chosen from among the Magistrate ranks, and the Council also appoints a first and second replacement in case the President is unable to serve (First Vice-President and Second Vice-President).
4. Boletn Judicial (Judicial Bulletin) is the official record of Supreme Court of Justice rulings. Electronic versions of Boletines Judiciales may be found on the Supreme Court of Justice's website.
5. Since January 2001, all National District Court of Appeals rulings have been available online at the Supreme Court of Justice.
6. Decree 20 of August, 1884 established the Código Penal de la Republica Dominicana (Criminal Code). Ley No. 24 -97, issued on January 27, 1997, on Family Violence; Ley No. 46-99, enacted on May 20, 1999, revising the forms of punishments in criminal offences; and Ley No. 36-00, amending Articles 311 and 401 of the Criminal Code to increase the authority of the Justices of the Peace. The Dominican Congress has yet to pass the sweeping changes to the Criminal Code that were mandated by Decrees No. 104 of 1997 and No. 556 of 1999.
7. Important changes to the Code of Civil Procedure were approved by Decrees 104 of 1997 and 556 of 1999, both of which are now awaiting approval from the Congress of the Dominican Republic. In Spanish, this is referred to as the ‘Code of Civil Procedure’ or ‘Codigo de Procedimiento Civil’
8. A dispute before the lower courts will normally take between 12 - 18 months to be heard, and a similar period will take between 12 - 18 months before the Court of Appeal will hear the dispute. The Supreme Court of Justice takes approximately 3 years to pronounce judgment on cases.
9. Unless instances are submitted, this first hearing sees the beginning of the debates and submission of evidence, which is essentially documentary or written evidence. Oral evidence is admitted only in exceptional circumstances.
10. The civil judge plays a passive role in the them by the parties and his decision is based on this evidence. A judge rarely decides without a requisition by the parties.
11. There may be an indefinite number of hearings, ranging from three to eight or more, until the parties reach an agreement on the merits and the court takes the case under advisement.