HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS IN PANAMA

This article will provide guidance on How To Serve legal papers in Panama.  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

Any person or legal representative involved with a criminal case requesting help gathering evidence or serving papers in another country might do so via the letter’s rogatory procedure.

BACKGROUND

A presidential representative democratic republic and a multi-party system regulate politics in Panama, with the president serving as both head of state and head of government. The government is in charge of exercising the executive branch’s powers. Both the executive and the National Assembly have legislative authority. The executive and legislative branches of government do not influence the judiciary.

Voting rights in national elections are guaranteed to all people above 18 who are eligible to vote. National elections are held every five years for the executive and legislative branches of government. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president of the United States. Proportional representation with fixed electoral districts means that several minor parties are represented in Panama’s National Assembly. Presidential elections need a majority; only ex-president Ricardo Martinelli has been elected with more than 50% of the popular vote out of the previous five presidents.

LEGAL SYSTEM OF PANAMA

For cases involving less than USD 5,000, municipal courts have Panama Process Service

jurisdiction, as well as some specific case-related matters (for example, eviction proceedings). A municipality is subject to the authority of the local courts. A panel of three circuit judges, one of whom serves as the chief appellate judge, hears municipal court rulings.

After that, there are the circuit courts, which have Panama Process Service jurisdiction over cases of a value more than USD 5,001 USD and over-specialized cases (for example, oral proceedings related to challenges against resolutions of corporations and claims involving land). Except in Panama, where three sets of circuit courts have authority over a series of towns, the circuit courts have Panama Process Service jurisdiction over a province.

Judicial districts divide the provinces into sections. Among the four judicial districts in Panama are the First Judicial District (Panama, Colon, Darien, and San Blas), Second Judicial District (Coclé and Veraguas), and Third Judicial District (Chiriqui), and Fourth Judicial District (Los Santos and Herrera). The First Judicial District is headed by a Superior Court that presides over the jurisdictions of the four districts. The Superior Courts or courts of appeals of the appropriate province’s judicial district consider appeals against circuit court rulings.

With regard to constitutional challenges against the actions of public officials with jurisdiction over a province as well as other matters, Superior Courts or Courts of Appeal generally serve as appellate courts for appeals against Circuit Court decisions as well as first-instance courts for such challenges. The First Judicial District has five judges, while the other three judicial districts each have three. As an appeal court, the magistrates are comprised of three magistrates, each rotating as the primary judge in separate instances.

The Supreme Court of Justice’s Plenary Assembly hears cases involving constitutional concerns. Supreme Court judges supervise four chambers, which each have three members; the First Civil Chamber, Second Chamber for criminal cases, Third, Administrative and Labor cases, and the Fourth Chamber for miscellaneous concerns. The Supreme Court is constituted of nine justices.

The courts of commerce, which include three (two active) circuit-level commercial courts of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama and a Superior Commercial Court, are also in existence. There will also be a Superior Insolvency Court, which will be located in the First Judicial District and oversee special insolvency courts at the circuit court level. 

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS IN PANAMA

The plaintiff has the burden of Panama Process Service evidence in civil cases. Judges must check and analyze Panama Process Service information presented by the parties and construct their own notion based on personal knowledge, relevant law, and the procedures for admitting evidence. This is a judge’s primary responsibility. In civil cases, juries are not engaged. There are a lot of written Panama Process Service documents involved in civil cases.

Litigation over retail sales, agent compensation, transportation contracts, broker liability, and insurance policies with one-year time limits are all claims susceptible to civil Panama Process Service under the Code of Commerce. Lawsuits arising out of corporate relationships and the resulting liabilities between shareholders or partners, as well as the liability of liquidators or managers for corporations, interest due on leases when charged yearly or less frequently, for collection of negotiable instruments and wholesale activity, and financial leasing and banking facilities have a Panama Process Service time limit of three years.

how to serve DOMESTIC legal papers IN PANAMA

It is critical for the plaintiff to ensure that all Panama Process Service evidence documents are admissible in civil proceedings because of their formal nature (for example, signatures have been acknowledged before a notary, documents granted abroad have been legalized, Panama Process Service documents have been signed by individuals with authority, certificates have been obtained within the legal timeline for their validity, etc.).

The plaintiff can utilize pre-judicial petitions to collect or generate  Panama Process Service evidence that would otherwise be inaccessible during the proceedings, such as witness statements, expert inspections of certain locations or items, and special disclosure of accounting and financial records.  There may be pre-judgment attachments of assets such as cash in banks, transportable assets, and property listed in a public registry prior to a final judgment being rendered. The sum is established by the court and deposited in the appropriate court’s account with the National Bank. To avoid dismissal, a pre-judgment attachment, or ex parte application, requires the plaintiff to file a complaint and serve Panama Process Service on the defendant within six days and three months, respectively. 

Everything begins with a complaint. The defendant is served in accordance with the court’s Panama Process Service directions when the complaint is accepted by the court. The defendant receives direct Panama Process Service from the courts. If the defendant is a company, legal representatives from the corporation must attend the Panama Process Service hearing. If the defendant or its representative is outside of Panama’s jurisdiction, letters rogatory must be addressed to the foreign jurisdiction. Each of these Panama Process Service papers is necessary for defendants in criminal prosecutions to provide. The deadline for replying to the complaint has already begun. If the accused criminal cannot be located, an absentee party defendant is assigned to stand trial.

After receiving the order admitting the complaint, a complaint must be filed within ten days, a response must be filed within ten days, and proof must be provided within five days. Panama Process Service requires that counter-evidence be provided within three days after submitting it. Panama Process Service provides three days after the filing of any objections following the counter-evidence submission. 

Up to a thirty-day timeline can be established by the court in order to gather the necessary Panama Process Service evidence. As evidence is gathered, closing statements must be filed within five days of the conclusion of the evidence stage. Decisions must be made within one to three years or more, and appeals must be filed within three days of Panama Process Service and within the five days that follow, whereinafter the judgment must be made within one to two years or more following appeals. 

Moral damages (for example, emotional or reputational loss) are available in civil claims for damages. Punitive damages are generally not available in civil proceedings. As exceptions, treble damages are available in consumer defense or action proceedings, as well as in the special procedure of international private law conflicts before the Panamanian courts, where the parties can request the application of foreign law indemnity rules.

If a defendant does not comply with the final order within six days after receiving Panama Process Service, the plaintiff can commence special enforcement proceedings and request the post-judgment attachment of the defendant’s assets. In certain Panama Process Service cases, the plaintiff can request that the defendant or a third party who fails to comply with or breaches an order of the judge is held in contempt. This may result in arrests and fines.

FOREIGN JUDGMENTS IN PANAMA

The Supreme Court of Justice of Panama generally recognizes and enforces a final foreign ruling without retry of the underlying lawsuit by launching exequatur procedures. If a treaty exists, then reciprocity is required. For this reason, the principle of reciprocity requires that the nation issuing the judgment recognizes a final and conclusive decision of the Panamanian courts in identical circumstances. As a result, the opposing party (and, in extreme cases, the Prosecution Office of the Attorney General) must prove the existence of reciprocity during exequatur procedures.

As a result of an action in personam, a judgment was issued. The antithesis of ‘real’ activities are actions in persona  (real estate property in Panama). Showing that the verdict was made after the defendant was served personally as per Panama Process Service. The Supreme Court’s Fourth Chamber will examine the exequatur petition for confirmation of appropriate service of process on the defendant while analyzing the petition. Due process and the concept of contradiction or bilateralism are upheld if the defendant was given a chance to respond to the allegation and offer a defense.

A licensed translator in Panama must provide translations of the copy of the final judgment (and any additional evidence) in accordance with the law of the relevant foreign court. The judgment must be final and definitive, meaning that no other remedies ( appeals or other challenges) can be taken against the judgment, which must be authentic. In order to pursue collection of the debts, the plaintiff must file special executory procedures before the civil courts after obtaining an exequatur from the Supreme Court of Justice’s Fourth Chamber.

International treaties and agreements allow foreign courts to obtain legal Panama Process Service help from the Panamanian judiciary using letters rogatory. If the petition is approved, it will be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice’s Fourth Chamber for consideration. It will then direct the appropriate courts to gather the evidence needed to rule on Panama Process Service.

how to serve INTERNATIONAL legal papers IN PANAMA

Through the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol, law enforcement cooperation between states may be enhanced (IACAP). For a treaty relationship to exist, both agreements must be signed by the same nation, and the United States considers this to include fair service of process. Instead of using the time-honored letter-rogatory approach, a foreign central authority might serve documents under the IACAP. There is a central authority in the United States recognized by IACAP, and that is the Department of Justice. Requests for information from the Department of Justice are sent to the U.S. Central Authority’s service provider through a private contractor.

The Department of Justice requires Panama Process Service documentation, and Panama Process Service may be accessed from the contractor’s website. An inquiry letter is unnecessary. This document, together with three copies of the summons and complaint (or any papers to be served), should accompany the request for service. Translating Panama Process Service summons and complaint documents, even if they are not on the form, is essential, regardless of the form’s language.

A national authority’s seal and signature are necessary, as opposed to those required by Hague Service Convention, which just requires a central authority’s signature and stamp (IACAP). To complete the form, the clerk of the court in the United States where the matter is now pending must sign and seal the Panama Process Service with their seal and signature. The Department of Justice’s subcontractor will be responsible for signing the signature of the U.S. Central Authority.

Unlike IACAP, the Hague Service Convention does not need a judicial or other authority of origin and Central Authority signature and stamp on the form. The seal and signature of the judicial or other adjudicatory authority of the state of origin must be placed on the form by any U.S. district court clerk handling this case. When it comes to signing and stamping documents, a contractor from the Department of Justice will be responsible for Panama Process Service.

Although the IACAP says that Panama Process Service requests should be processed free of charge, it is permissible under the IACAP to charge parties for expenditures incurred in order to provide Panama Process Service in line with local law. Certain nations may charge the foreign central authority USD25.00. If service is desired outside of Mexico and Argentina, a USD25.00 certified check or money order must be sent to the foreign central authority. If no charge has been assessed, the cheque will be returned to the sender.

For the IACAP, the border courts are empowered to carry out the Panama Process Service orders quickly, and such Panama Process Service requests do not need authentication in border states. If attorneys representing their clients in those countries make requests directly to the central authority in border states, they may convey proof of Panama Process Service to the central authority in the United States. Since the request state specifies how results from a request should be transmitted, this is what the request state should include. This information should contain the lawyer’s name and office address. Border states’ requests to the Mexican Central Authority must also be authenticated in accordance with the Hague Apostille Convention, the US Central Authority said.

The Convention request process might take as long as the letter rogatory procedure in certain nations. A request may take up to a year to process from the time it is first filed. Argentina and Peru have been able to process applications more quickly, on average, in less than three months, according to the U.S. Central Authority.

No mention is made of Panama Process Service by mail in either the Convention or the Protocol. Litigants should consult with local counsel if mail or other methods of Panama Process Service are not available or if doing so will prejudice future efforts to have a U.S. ruling locally enforced.

As a condition for ratification of the Convention, the United States adopted a reservation prohibiting its application to demands for proof.  

for assistance serving legal papers in Panama

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Sources

1. The U.S. Central Authority for the treaty is the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Foreign Litigation, Washington, D.C.

2. The writ of cassation is used to challenge judgments made by the Superior Courts, which are heard in the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice. The Civil Chamber consists of three Supreme Court judges.

3. Additionally, there are two marine courts with countrywide jurisdiction, as well as a maritime court of appeals, in place.

4. Also, keep in mind that the Code of Commerce places a five-year time restriction on claims that may be brought in civil court.

5. In most circumstances, a refundable damage deposit (often between $100 and $1,000 USD) is required before a transaction can be completed.

6. A security bond, equal to 25-40% of the attachment or claim amount, is required in the event of damages being caused (the attachment amount cannot exceed the claim amount).

7. As a general rule, in addition to the proven claimed amount, the prevailing party is entitled to interest (at a default rate of 6 percent per annum in civil matters and 10 percent in commercial matters), litigations costs, and expenses, as well as legal fees set in accordance to the Bar tariff, which consider the type of procedure and claim amount.

8. There will be no levy in Argentina or Mexico, according to the countries’ respective statements. Even though they are signatories to the Convention and its Addendum, no one else has spoken out against it.

9. Page 7 of the form will be executed as evidence of service by the foreign central authority.

10. U.S. Embassy Panama

Avenida Demetrio Basilio Lakas,

Building No.783

Clayton, Panama

Telephone: +(507) 317-5000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(507) 317-5000

Fax: +(507) 317-5278

Panama-ACS@state.gov

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