CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IN PANAMA
This article will provide guidance on the Code of Civil Procedure in Panama. Panama's legal system is a civil law system influenced by Roman and Spanish precedents. Panama has adopted several aspects of Anglo-American law. Panama's constitution protects the right to a habeas corpus hearing, a hallmark of the Anglo-American judicial process often absent from several Latin American legal regimes.
To protect the state's interests, promote the enforcement and execution of laws, judicial decisions, and administrative orders, oversee the conduct and performance of public officials, prosecute violations of constitutional or legal provisions, and advise administrative officials, the Constitution has established a Public Ministry, an authority distinctive to the country.
When a foreign party is involved in a legal dispute in Panama, it is often necessary to serve the process on them in their home country. This requires the services of a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal, which is familiar with the legal requirements and procedures in Panama and foreign countries. Undisputed Legal will uphold your expectations of a process server by ensuring your documents are delivered promptly and carefully.
The lowest level of courts is the municipal court, which has authority over cases valued at less than USD 5,000 and certain other limited cases (for example, eviction proceedings). The municipal courts will settle all legal matters inside a municipality. The judgments of municipal courts may be appealed to the circuit courts, which consist of three circuit judges, one of whom acts as the lead appellate judge. There are circuit courts for claims of more than USD 5,000 and other exceptional cases (for example, oral proceedings related to challenges against resolutions of corporations and claims involving land).
Different ‘judicial districts represent each province. The Republic of Panama is divided into four judicial districts, each with its own Superior Court for civil matters. First-instance courts for constitutional challenges to the activities of public officials within a province, the Superior Courts or courts of appeals, also function as appellate tribunals for appeals from the verdicts of the lower-level circuit courts. The First Judicial District has five members of the Superior Court, whereas the remaining districts have three. The three magistrates serve as an appeal court, each member taking turns as the primary magistrate on various cases.
There are other specialized courts, such as the Superior Commercial Court, part of the First Judicial District, and the three (two active) commercial courts of the First Judicial Circuit. In addition, a Superior Insolvency Court within the First Judicial District will supervise specialized insolvency courts as they work their way up through the circuit court system. Two additional marine courts and a maritime court of appeals exist, all with countrywide jurisdiction.
PRE-ACTION PROCEDURE IN PANAMA
While filing a claim, certain deadlines must be met. For activities that do not have a specific time restriction, the Civil Code sets the general time limit for bringing a personal claim at seven years. One year is the standard statute of limitations for a tort suit.
Since civil proceedings are so formal, the plaintiff is responsible for ensuring that all evidence is valid and admissible in accordance with the applicable law (for example, signatures have to be acknowledged before a notary, documents granted abroad have to be legalized, documents have to be signed by individuals with authority, certificates have to be obtained within the legal timeline for their validity, etc.).
Pre-trial motions allow the plaintiff to request the production or disclosure of evidence outside the normal course of proceedings. This evidence can take the form of testimony from witnesses, inspections of locations, objects, or documents with the assistance of experts, the disclosure of previously confidential accounting or financial records, or the submission of reports from private or public institutions. In most cases, the order cannot be executed without a security deposit (often between USD 100 and USD 1,000) to cover repair costs. Ex-parte applications, such as the prejudgment attachment, require the plaintiff to file a complaint and serve the defendant with proceedings within six days and three months, respectively, or face dismissal of the case.
At Undisputed Legal, we are cognizant that service of process is an essential component of the legal system in Panama, particularly in cases involving foreign parties or cross-border disputes. Consequently, we ensure that we provide expertise and assistance in navigating the complex legal requirements and procedures involved in the serving process in foreign countries. We can help you make sure that justice is served efficiently and effectively.
INITIATING PROCEEDINGS IN PANAMA
Filing a formal complaint in court often marks the beginning of a civil proceeding. For legal procedures to begin, a complaint must be filed by a party known as the plaintiff. To file a complaint, a plaintiff must identify all defendants, detail the incident, and explain the legal theory supporting the claim.
A ruling from the court will follow this. The case is officially opened by passing this resolution, and the opposite party will be notified. The defendant will be allowed to answer, and then the court will schedule a hearing. Each side, the defendant and the plaintiff will have a lawyer present. An attempt at compromise is to be made at this meeting. The court then weighs the claims made by each side after hearing the supporting evidence. The judge then issues a ruling. This is a final and binding judgment that must be adhered to by all parties.
The defendant's authorized agent must accept the papers when serving a company as the defendant. If the defendant or their representation is not physically present in Panama, then letters rogatory must be transmitted to the relevant foreign jurisdiction via diplomatic channels. A copy of the complaint and the admission order must be sent to the defendant, who must sign the admission order. The time limit for responding to the complaint will start counting down at that point.
The court might order a schedule for gathering evidence anywhere from five to thirty days. The deadline for closing arguments is five days following the conclusion of the evidence-gathering phase. The judge is responsible for maintaining the proceedings’ momentum. However, mechanisms in place give the parties some say over the procedure and its timeline. For example, the parties can agree to postpone the terms of proceedings for up to three months, and they can ask the judge to eliminate, modify, or have as effective certain parts of the procedure.
One advantage of entrusting Undisputed Legal with your papers is that we can provide valuable expertise and knowledge of local customs and procedures. This can be particularly important when serving papers in countries with different legal systems and cultures, where local knowledge can help ensure the process is carried out effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on providing a single point of contact for all aspects of the legal process. This can be particularly useful in complex cases involving multiple jurisdictions, where coordinating the activities of different legal professionals and authorities can be challenging. When you place your reliance on us, we will try our utmost to ensure that the process is managed efficiently and that all relevant requirements are met.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS IN PANAMA
In civil cases, it is not expected to award punitive damages. Under the particular method of international private law disputes before the courts of Panama, the parties may seek to adopt foreign law indemnification principles. In consumer defense or action procedures, triple damages may be possible.
Failure to comply with the final decision within six days of serving gives rise to the right of the plaintiff to initiate special enforcement actions and to seek post-judgment attachment of the defendant's assets. The plaintiff may ask for contempt sanctions if the defendant or a third party disobeys or violates a court order.
Litigants in Panama may also file Amparo procedures to evaluate the legality of judgments made by other courts. Both commercial and civil litigation include these issues. To protect citizens from governmental actors who violate their constitutional rights, the amparo process has long been a staple of legal practice in Latin American countries. The process was designed after the Anglo-American habeas corpus right.
HOW TO SERVE OUT-OF-STATE DOCUMENTS IN PANAMA
Many options exist in Central and South America for carrying out foreign service of process. Not all Central and South American nations have ratified the Hague Service Convention. Other multilateral treaties, such as the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and its Additional Protocol, provide signatory states with an option for establishing jurisdiction in these nations.
Although both the Hague Convention and the Inter-American Convention use Letters Rogatory, the latter also requires that all papers be translated before being served. Nonetheless, the Inter-American Convention does provide certain challenges that the Hague Convention does not. One of these problems is that no clear-cut Central Authority is in place. Without the explicit organization of Central Authorities, knowing where to submit documents to guarantee service is effectuated might be challenging. The Inter-American Convention was meant to provide a unified system for the service of process among its members, although there are still significant differences. The Inter-American Convention's Article 2 specifies that only civil and commercial problems are within its purview.
As in most nations that are not parties to the Hague Service Convention, service under the Inter-American Convention may be anticipated to take anywhere from six months to a year. Notwithstanding its flaws, the Inter-American Convention is preferable to the use of Letters Rogatory for serving legal documents throughout Central and South America. As this is a treaty, the parties have committed to cooperate in serving legal documents, especially in business and civil transactions. The Inter-American Treaty is a backup plan in case the Hague Service Convention is unavailable. Panama is not a party to the Hague Service Convention. However, the United States and Panama are parties to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol.
Panama is a popular destination for international businesses and investors, so legal disputes involving foreign parties are not uncommon. When a foreign party is involved in a legal dispute in Panama, it is often necessary to serve the process on them in their home country. This requires the services of a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal which is familiar with the legal requirements and procedures in Panama and the foreign country. Further, the complex legal system in Panama also requires an understanding of the several international conventions and agreements that govern the service of process in cross-border disputes that the country is a part of. To comply with the requirements of these conventions, it becomes imperative to use an international process service agency like Undisputed Legal. We guarantee that we are familiar with the specific requirements and procedures, and we can streamline the time it will take to get your papers across.
Documents can be faxed at (800) 296-0115, emailed to email@example.com, or uploaded to our website. We do require prepayment and accept all major credit and debit cards. Once payment is processed, your sales receipt is immediately emailed for your records.
Drop-offs must call and make an appointment first to be added to building security to permit access to our office. Documents for service must be in a sealed envelope with payment in the form of a money order or attorney check (WE DO NOT ACCEPT CASH) payable to UNDISPUTED LEGAL INC.; Our receptionist will receive all documents.
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1. The First Judicial District includes the provinces of Panama, Colon, Darien, San Blas, and Panama Oeste. In contrast, the Second Judicial District includes Coclé and Veraguas, the Third Judicial District includes Chiriqu and Bocas del Toro, and the Fourth Judicial District includes Los Santos and Herrera. Superior Courts or courts of appeals in the appropriate province consider appeals from judgments made by circuit courts.
2. If there is a plea bargain, the court will note it in the final judgment. Each party is responsible for ensuring the other's adherence to the terms of the agreement.
3. Claims may be secured by pre-judgment attachment of assets such as cash in banks, moveable assets, property listed with the Public Registry, credits, inventories, etc. The court may order a security bond for damages to be posted in an amount between 25 and 40 percent of the attachment amount or claim amount (the attachment amount cannot exceed the claim amount), which may be paid in cash deposited with the National Bank into the appropriate court's account, in insurance or bank guarantees, in mortgages, or public debt instruments.
4. On August 22, 1916, Law No. 2 was passed, thus establishing the Panamanian Civil Code
5. Timeline of a civil claim:
- Filing of the complaint
- response to a complaint due ten days after the complaint admission order is sent;
- Proof submission: 15 days after the response period for the complaint, with a five-day deadline;
- A rebuttal to evidence must be submitted no later than three days after the original submission;
- Any evidentiary objections must be submitted no later than three days after the counter-evidence period has been submitted.
6. The internet has allowed people to make requests for relief that were previously unavailable. But, there is a new initiative being supported by the Supreme Court of Justices that would make it possible. Although it is still in progress, it has already been adopted by several courts in Panama City.
7. Hence, it has mostly functioned as a means of self-defense up to this point. The impact of the ruling is limited to between the parties, or inter partes, which is in stark contrast to the erga omnes results reached through full constitutional review. In addition to this procedural distinction, many Latin American nations are adopting constitutional courts modeled after those in continental Europe. By keeping the amparo process intact, Latin American countries have a constitutional toolbox that includes time-honored methods and cutting-edge innovations.
8. Thirteen nations, including Guatemala, Uruguay, Panama, and Peru, have ratified the Inter-American Convention. Several nations, including Mexico, ratified the Hague Convention and the Inter-American Convention.