Chapter 4

Judicial Power and Justice System Icon

Section One. General Provisions

Structure of the courts

Article 253

The power to administer justice emanates from the citizens and is exercised in the name of the Republic by authority of law. The organs comprising the Judicial Power are charged with dealing with all cases and matters within their competence, through such procedures as may be determined by the laws, and with carrying out or causing the execution of their judgments. The justice system consists of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, such other courts as may be determined by law, the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Public Defender’s Office, criminal investigation organs, judicial assistants and officials, the penitentiary system, alternative means of justice, citizens participating in the administration of justice in accordance with law and attorneys at law admitted to practice.

Article 254

The Judicial Power is autonomous, and the operating, financial and administrative autonomy of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice is hereby established. To this end, in the national general budget a variable annual amount at least equivalent to 2% of the ordinary national budget shall be allocated to the justice system in order to enable it to function effectively; such amount shall not be reduced or modified without authorization in advance from the National Assembly. The Judicial Power is not authorized to establish any charges or tariffs, nor to demand any payment for its services. Oaths to abide by constitution

Article 255

Appointment to a judicial position and the promotion of judges shall be carried out by means of public competitions to ensure the capability and excellence of the participants, with selection by the juries of the judicial circuits, in such manner and on such terms as may be established by law. The appointment and swearing in of judges shall be the responsibility of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Citizen participation in the process of selecting and designating judges shall be guaranteed by law. Judges shall be removed or suspended from office only through the procedures expressly provided for by law. Measures shall be taken by law to promote the professionalism of judges, and the universities shall cooperate to this end, organizing their corresponding law schools curricula to specialized studies in judicial practice. Judges are personally liable, on such terms as may be determined by law, for unjustified omissions, delay or errors, for substantial failure to observe the rules of procedure, for denial of justice, for partiality and for the criminal offenses of bribery and prevarication in office.

Article 256

In order to guarantee impartiality and independence in the exercise of their official functions, magistrates, judges, prosecutors in the Office of Public Prosecutions and public defenders, from the date of their appointment until they leave office, shall not be permitted, otherwise than by exercising their right to vote, to engage in partisan political, professional association, trade union or similar activism; nor to engage in private activities for profit which are incompatible with their official functions, either directly or through any interposed person; nor to perform any other public functions, with the exception of educational activities. Judges shall not be permitted to form associations among themselves

Article 257

Procedure represents a fundamental instrument for the administration of justice. Procedural laws shall provide for the simplification, uniformity and efficiency of legal formalities, and shall adopt expeditious, oral and public procedures. Justice shall not be sacrificed because of the omission of nonessential formalities.

Article 258

Justice of peace in communities shall be organized by law. Justices of peace shall be elected by universal suffrage, directly and by secret ballot, in accordance with law. The law shall encourage arbitration, conciliation, mediation and any other alternative means for resolving conflicts.

Article 259

Competence over contentious administrative law proceedings shall be vested in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and such other courts as may be determined by law. Organs with jurisdiction in the field of contentious administrative law are competent to nullify general or individual administrative acts contrary to law, including cases of power deviation; to order the payment of sums of money and reparations for damages for whose causation the Administration is responsible; to deal with claims arising from the providing of public services; and to rule as necessary to restore the legal position of parties harmed by administrative actions. Indigenous right to representation Right to culture

Article 260 The legitimate authorities of the native peoples shall have the power to apply within their territorial competence levels of administration of justice based on their ancestral traditions and affecting their members only, in accordance to their own rules and proceedings, provided the same are not contrary to this Constitution, law and public order. The manner in which this special competence shall be coordinated with the national judicial system shall be determined by law.

Establishment of military courts

Article 261

Military criminal jurisdiction is an integral part of the Judicial Power, and its judges shall be selected by a competitive process. Its sphere of competence, organization and modes of operation shall be governed by the accusatory system and in accordance with the Organic Code of Military Justice. The commission of common crimes, human rights violations and violations of humanity rights shall be judged by the courts of the ordinary jurisdiction. Military courts jurisdiction is limited to offenses of a military nature. Insofar as not provided for in this Constitution, special jurisdiction and the competence, organization and functioning of the courts shall be regulated by law.

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