How The Central Authority Works in Panama

Written by: Undisputed Legal Inc.

This article will provide guidance on How The Central Authority Works in Panama.  The  Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters is a streamlined process for serving a person inside a member nation under the Convention. However, Panama is not a part of the Hague Service Convention. The Organization of American States member states came together in Panama in 1975 to establish the Inter-American Service Convention on Letters Rogatory and the 1979 Additional Protocol. Panama is a part of the Inter-American Service Convention and Additional Protocol, and our Undisputed Legal process servers can ensure your documents are delivered accordingly. Click Here for information on the Code of Civil Procedure in Panama.

Any letters rogatory issued in connection with civil or commercial actions before the relevant judicial or other adjudicatory authority of Panama has the purpose of serving process overseas. 


Letters rogatory may be sent via the proper channels: the courts, diplomatic or consular representatives, or even the Central Authority of the sending or receiving state. In an authenticated form, the complaint, any accompanying papers, and any additional evidence or court orders that support the proposed action should be served. Each letter must include documentation, [A.] naming the issuing adjudicatory body,[B.]  explaining the nature of the request, [C.] the deadline by which the affected party must respond, and [D.] outlining the repercussions of failing to comply.  A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal can ensure that your papers are served according to Panama law. Our process servers are local to Panama. Consequently, we can serve your documents according to domestic law and the Inter-American Convention’s specifications. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

The issuance of letters is rogatory and does not constitute a final acknowledgment of the authority’s jurisdiction or an undertaking to recognize or carry out the legality of any judgment it may give. Execution of letters rogatory must adhere to the regulations and statutes of the State to which they are sent. We at Undisputed Legal make sure to comply with these regulations.Click here for information on How To Identify A Good Process Service Agency

If the letter rogatory is being requested by a judicial or other adjudicatory authority, the State of destination authority may follow a particular procedure to execute the process. The responsible party for charges and other expenditures may not be named in the letter rogatory executed by the state of destination, which is done at its discretion. The letter rogatory or the documentation related to its execution may specify the party with the authority to represent the applicant legally.  Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

A Superior Court oversees the four districts that make up the First Judicial District. In cases involving constitutional challenges to the actions of provincially-appointed public officials or other similar matters, the Superior Court or Court of Appeal typically acts as both the first-instance court and the appellate court for decisions made by the Circuit Court. Municipal courts in Panama have jurisdiction over cases valued at less than USD 5,000 and some case-related concerns (such as eviction procedures). The jurisdiction of the local courts extends to municipalities, and our Undisputed Legal process servers will always comply with the requirements of each Panama Court. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

Central Authority in Panama

The Secretaría General de la Corte Suprema de Justicia maintains an organized record of all court papers and correspondence and is responsible for their correct identification and numbering. This office oversees the Court’s official documentation and manages its official relations; an exclusive lawyer must head it. The Secretaria General endorses all administrative actions and communications issued by the Presidency or the Court. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

The Secretaría General de la Corte Suprema de Justicia oversees all notaries’ tasks since the Registry encompasses more than just their payroll and records. Further, the Cabinet Management Office has delegated authority to the Secretaría General to handle all court paperwork and oversee official operations.  According to the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure in Panama, the Plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice is competent to hear criminal proceedings and preventive measures against the deputies of the National Assembly and the Parlacen. Click here for information on How To Overcome Language Barriers in Process Service 

Forming the Public Ministry are the Attorney General and the Solicitor General of the Administration, who collaborate with lower district attorneys, circuit attorneys, and municipal attorneys to prosecute criminal cases in criminal courts. Our Undisputed Legal process servers will make sure to deliver your papers according to the requirements of the Central Authority in Panama. Our Undisputed Legal process servers aim to serve your legal papers as quickly as possible, including those involving foreign jurisdictions. Prompt service of your court papers is emphasized in the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory. This is particularly relevant in legal procedures when time is of the essence. Click here for information on How Timelines Are Important in Process Serving.

Civil Procedure in Panama

The plaintiff must ensure that all evidence documents are admissible in civil proceedings due to their formal nature. This includes ensuring that signatures have been acknowledged before a notary, that foreign-granted documents have been legalized, that individuals with authority have signed documents, and that certificates have been obtained within the legal timeline for their validity, among other things. 

The plaintiff can gather or create evidence, such as statements from witnesses, expert inspections of specific places or things, or particular disclosure of financial and accounting records through pre-judicial petitions, which would otherwise be unavailable during the proceedings. Before the final judgment, assets might be attached, including bank accounts, movable assets, and property recorded in a public registry. The amount is decided upon by the court and then placed into the relevant court’s National Bank account. To fulfill all procedural requirements and deadlines, our Undisputed Legal process servers guarantee the effective and timely transmission of legal documents to the Central Authority in Panama.

A complaint starts it all. Process service will be forwarded to the foreign jurisdiction if the defendant or their representation is outside Panama’s jurisdiction.  There is a ten-day window after getting the order admitting the complaint to make a complaint, ten days to file a response, and five days to give evidence. The deadline for providing counter-evidence is three days after submitting the original evidence.

Claims for damages in legal cases might include moral damages, such as emotional distress or harm to one’s reputation. In civil processes, punitive damages are often not possible. With a few notable exceptions, parties may seek to adopt foreign law indemnification standards under the unique method of international private law disputes before the Panama courts, where our Undisputed Legal process servers can be helpful.  Within six days of receiving documents, the plaintiff may initiate special enforcement procedures and ask for the post-judgment attachment of the defendant’s assets if the defendant does not comply with the final ruling. As such, our Undisputed Legal servers’ knowledge of the rules and regulations and the specific protocols of each jurisdiction in which they work is extensive. This information is vital for understanding the intricacies of the serving process and meeting Panama’s legal standards.

In most cases, the Panama Supreme Court will use an exequatur process to recognize and implement a final foreign verdict rather than retrying the original litigation. The existence of a treaty necessitates the practice of reciprocity. This is why, according to the principle of reciprocity, the judging country must acknowledge the finality of the Panamanian courts’ rulings in similar situations. Consequently, during exequatur processes, it is the burden of the opposing party (or, in severe instances, the Prosecution Office of the Attorney General) to establish the presence of reciprocity.

Foreign courts may legally receive assistance from Panamanian justice using letters of rogatory thanks to international treaties and agreements. The Fourth Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice will review the petition after its approval. The relevant courts will then be directed to collect the necessary evidence to make a ruling.

Apostille in Panama

The Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol (IACAP) is a mechanism governments may use to improve their cooperation in law enforcement. The United States maintains that service of process must be equitable for a treaty relationship and that the same country must sign the two treaties. A foreign central authority may use the IACAP to serve papers rather than the traditional letters-rogatory method in Panama. There must be the seal and signature of a national authority, as opposed to the signature and stamp of a central authority as required by the Inter-American Service Convention. Due to the need to adhere to the legal norms of several countries, serving documents under the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory may be a complicated process. Our Undisputed Legal process servers are well-equipped to meet the unique demands of serving documents by the Convention.

The IACAP gives the authority to the border courts to swiftly execute Panama process services, and requests for such orders do not need identification in border states. To speed up or ease the international recognition of legal papers, the apostilling of documents becomes a vital device in the framework of Panamanian judicial operations.  

First, the document must be authenticated by the issuing entity. This could be a power of attorney, a court judgment, or any other legal document. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the competent authority in Panama to apostille public and notarized documents. Next, the document is certified as valid by the relevant authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by placing or attaching the apostille to it. The Convention specifies methods for authenticating and certifying foreign legal documents. Our Undisputed Legal process servers can aid in submitting requests for information and the structure of answers about Panama law.

Apostilled or legalized papers from other countries are not valid in Panama. In other words, the foreign ministry of the issuing nation must apostille these documents. Apostilled and written in a language other than English, these papers often originate from foreign countries. The Republic of Panama has to certify that the public translator can interpret official documents from languages other than Spanish.

Does a foreign court’s apostille affect the validity of a document? Although the apostille itself is valid for the duration of the document’s validity, the specific situation at hand will dictate the sort of document that has to be apostilled. Since these documents can be records not subject to expiration -such as degrees, certificates of completion, and court records- which are eligible to have apostilles applied to them, our Undisputed Legal process servers can provide expert guidance in serving these papers.

Documents with an apostille will have their validity period terminated simultaneously as the document itself. For instance, certificates from the Civil Registry are valid for ninety days until they expire.  However, a procedure exists in Panama to deliver foreign legal papers from states that have not ratified the Hague Convention. The Panamanian Consulate in the issuing nation and the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs work jointly to authenticate documents using this procedure. 

The Panamanian diplomatic or consular official assigned to the country of origin must attest that the documents were issued in Panama before they can be used as evidence. The second option requires an official document from the Panama Ministry of Foreign Affairs attesting that no Pana consulate or diplomatic representative is present at the address provided. Without prejudice to the party showing otherwise, it is considered that the papers are issued in conformity with the local legislation of their origin since they are authenticated in this manner. A public interpreter will be asked to translate any foreign papers written in a language other than Spanish; if that fails, the court will appoint an ad hoc interpreter.

The general secretary of the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Justice signs the apostille of judicial documents for use abroad. 

Notary Public in Panama

It is the responsibility of the Consular Office to perform notarial services. As a general rule, these responsibilities are associated with the Consul and include the practice of public law in the same way that a public attorney would in Panama. Any interested party may submit a genuine document to be notarized at the Panama Consulate General.  The interested party will meet with the Consular General to provide all paperwork and documentation supporting the certification. It is essential that the individual named on the paper personally signs it in the presence of the Consulate.

A Notary Public will authenticate official documents that are either updated originals or certified copies made by the same entity, bearing the issuing authority’s original seal and signature. The dates on all documents should be current. The signature must be legible.  For original private documents, a Public Notary’s endorsement of the signature is required, in addition to an affidavit from a Notary Public attesting to the fact that the signatory swore and signed in his presence. All parties should include a copy of their identification document or cedula.

A Notary Public in Panama is required to certify all diplomas and credits. However, Panama citizens are exempt from paying the authentication charge if their diplomas are less than six months old.  Each document can also be authenticated at an additional expense of USD 30. A money order must accompany each document. Parties may have their papers stamped at the Notary of the Circuit of Panama. Businesses and government agencies will require official identification as specified by a Notary Public. 

Procedural requirements for notarial acts include the need for a notary public to attest to the integrity of certain facts at a specified location. Public deeds may also be requested before a Notary Public. Notaries provide the authenticity of signatures. Service could be necessary for several legal processes, including letters of authority for general proceedings, vehicle ownership transfer cards, exit letters for minors, or marriage records. Authentication, document comparison, public deed elaboration, and declarations before the notary are all part of the notarial services. 

Power of Attorney in Panama

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants another party the authority to act on behalf of the represented party in carrying out legal actions that will have an impact on the represented party.

The general prosecutor’s office includes the party with an interest and delegates full authority to the representative to handle all his current and future issues. The duration of the general power of attorney is endless, and it remains valid until it is withdrawn.

In its place, non-citizens must have a ‘Poder especial or general’ notarized by a Panamanian notary public and then request a translational apostille. Since it is a juridical person, a Panamanian company must designate a natural person to represent it legally. Although individuals have the authority to act alone, corporations and other juridical entities are required by law or bylaws, articles of organization, rules, or other documents to be represented in court and outside of it.

Power of attorney is valid from the date they are granted in a public deed or private document with a date confirmed by the Notary Public. They do not need to be registered unless they authorize changes to the real estate title. The power of attorney is not invalid only because execution is imminent.

Revocation, resignation, or the grantor’s or attorney-in-fact’s death, disability, bankruptcy, or insolvency are the events that end mandates. Because of this, living wills created according to common law standards must be rewritten to be valid in nations that follow the principles of civil law.

Panamanian banks, such as Caja de Ahorros, often require General Powers of Attorney to be recorded in the Public Registry. It seems that this is a holdover from a provision that was in place for 90 years until it was repealed by Law Decree 5 of 1997. General or special powers of attorney (‘mandato’) are considered adequate as of the grant date in a public deed or private instrument with a date validated by the Notary Public. They may be recorded in the Public Registry.

The decision to register a power of attorney also entails registering its revocation unless the original instrument expressly does not require it. The registration of a power of attorney is still necessary for the sale or encumbrance of real estate in Panama. Article 592 of the Commercial Code states that other merchants, such as banks, may demand formal proof of power of attorney from companies since corporations are considered commercial organizations. Nonetheless, a general power of attorney registration is still not required under Panama law.

According to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory, our Undisputed Legal local process servers can significantly benefit your case when it comes to serving papers. We have extensive experience with international service of process and can help you understand and comply with local laws and regulations. With our Undisputed Legal process servers, you can rest easy knowing that your documents will be served correctly and by the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory. We aim to ensure that you efficiently and confidently navigate the complexities of international legal proceedings.


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Pick up the phone and call Toll Free (800) 774-6922, or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all your Panama process service needs; no job is too small or too large!  For instructions on How To Serve Legal Papers in Panama, Click Here!

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1. 20 U.S.T. 361, T.I.A.S. No. 6638, 658 U.N.T.S. 163

2. The laws of the state where the declaration is made will govern its implications. It is permissible for diplomatic or consular agents accredited to a State to carry out the duties outlined in Article 2 so long as doing so does not violate the laws of that State. In doing so, they are not to engage in coercive behavior.

3. Panama is divided into four judicial districts: the first (including Panama, Colon, Darien, and San Blas), the second (including Coclé and Veraguas), the third (including Chiriqui), and the fourth (including Los Santos and Herrera).

4. A panel hears municipal court verdicts of three circuit judges, one of whom is the lead appeal judge. 

5. PA No. 464 of June 26, 2007, which establishes the internal regulations of the Supreme Court of Justice, considers the functions of its General Secretariat.

6. Dirección de Servicios Administrativos del Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia
Avenida Central, entre calles 2a. y 3a.
San Felipe
Apartado postal: 1628
Zona 1

7. As part of its legal and administrative duties, the Supreme Court of Justice’s General Secretariat registers and disseminates decisions made by the Corporation’s Full Chamber and Governing Chamber. Regular and special meetings of the judges are called upon by this body, which is also responsible for:-

  1. Projecting the agenda, taking minutes of the sessions, 
  2. Dividing up items known to the full chamber with the president.

The Secretariat General is responsible for maintaining a record of all resumes submitted to the Court. 

8. The Judicial Branch of Panama, through the Office of International Legal Affairs, complies with Executive Decree No. 29 of February 8, 1991, which authorizes the granting of sole legalization, annotation, or apostille to certain public officials by the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961, on the suspension of legalization requirements for foreign documents.

9. Nonetheless, they should be considered an essential component of any power of attorney executed by regulations or instructions, as stated in Article 581. The attorney-in-fact may only serve in this capacity from May 29, 2007, to May 28, 2008, regardless of whether the document was approved before the notary four days before since the term of the document is limited in this circumstance

10. As established by Law Decree’s Article 580A in the Code of Commerce.


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