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Dominican Legal System, for the most part, is derived from laws or statues
known as Napoleonic code, which were introduced to the country during the
period from 1822 to 1844, when Haiti maintained political control over
the entire island of Hispanola (following the revolt and freedom from spain
in 1821). To be sure, the influence of French government and ideals
goes deeper than just this period. France actually controlled the present
day Dominican Republic during different periods of it's history, so it
is not so unusual to find this Spanish speaking country with a legal system
based upon the French model.
The legal system then is that of Civil Law and not common law. For a generalized comparison, this means that judges hear and decide cases, not juries. The courts are comprised of the following:
The Peace Courts
~ which really can be called a sort of generalized civil court, designed
to hear small cases and those cases of a minor nature. The cases
heard in a peace court are presented in front of a judge, who has the responsibility
of hearing the case and rendering a verdict.
The Courts of First Instance
~ Like the peace courts, there is only one judge assigned to hear and decide
a case. These courts are more specialized than the peace courts and
are broken down into chambers according to the nature of the case being
heard. As an example, there may be separate chambers for civil matters,
criminal matters and commercial matters. To highlight the difference
between this and the peace courts; a dispute with your neighbor over his
dog tearing up your garden will be heard by a peace court. A dispute
over legal land title or a more serious criminal matter would go to a court
of first instance.
The Appeals Courts
~ Consisting of a five judge panel, the appeals courts have the responsibility
to hear cases or verdicts previously rendered by a court of first instance.
In simpler terms, if you disagree with the judgement presented by a judge
in the court of first instance, you may appeal your case to the appeals
courts. This system is quite different than the American System,
in that there is a panel of five judges who must collectively render a
decision on a case and decide if the judge in the courts of first instance
was correct or not in his decision.
The Supreme Court of Justice
~ Consisting of a 16 judge panel, the supreme court has the responsibility
to hear cases decided upon in other courts. The supreme court however
can only review a case whereby the interpretation of the law is in question.
This Information has been prepared and
compiled by Mr. John Schroder. Mr. Schroder maintains an office in
Santo Domingo and in Panama. His firm provides assistance with