UPDATE: Guide to Legal Research in the Dominican Republic

 

By Marisol Florén Romero

 

Marisol Florén Romero is the Assistant Director for Library Services and Foreign & International Law Librarian at Florida International University (FIU) College of Law.

 

Published November/December 2016

(Previously updated in July 2009 and Sept. 2012)

See the Archive Version!

 

Table of Contents

1.      General Information

1.1.  Historical Background

1.2. Structure of the Government

1.2.1.       Legislative Power

1.2.2.      Executive Power

1.2.3.      Judicial Power

2.     The Legal System

2.1. Historical Evolution

2.2.General Court System

2.2.1.      Constitutional Court

2.2.2.     Supreme Court of Justice

2.2.3.     Courts of Appeal

2.2.4.     Courts of First Instance

2.2.5.     Justices of the Peace

2.3.Specialized Courts

2.3.1.      Minors and Juvenile Courts

2.3.2.     Labor Courts

2.3.3.     Land Courts

2.3.4.     Administrative Contentious Court

       2.4. Public Ministry

3.     Primary Sources of Law

3.1. Constitution

3.2.Codes

3.2.1.      Civil Code

3.2.2.     Code of Civil Procedure

3.2.3.     Commercial Code

3.2.4.     Criminal Code

3.2.5.     Code of Criminal Procedure

3.2.6.     Tax Code

3.2.7.     Labor Code

3.2.8.     Code of the Minor

3.2.9.     Monetary and Financial Code

3.3.Other Laws

3.4.Law Reports and Compilations of Legislation

3.5. Case Law Reports and Digests

4.     Treaties and International Agreements

5.     Legal Journals

6.     Legal Databases

7.     Legal Websites

8.     Legal Bookstores

 

1.     General Information

 

1.1.          Historical Background

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean between the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. It shares with Haiti the island of Hispaniola, occupying two thirds of the eastern side of the island. It occupies 48,730 square kilometers, making it the second largest island of the Greater Antilles after Cuba. It supports a population of 10.5 million inhabitants.[1]

 

The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, and was named Hispaniola. It  was colonized by Spain until 1795 when, pursuant to the Treaty of Basle, which ended the war between France and Spain sparked by the French Revolution, Spain ceded to France the eastern side of the island, giving to France control over the entire island of Hispaniola.[2]

 

Although a Spanish colony, from 1607 forward France began to occupy the western side of Hispaniola by taking over large portions of land and converting them into agricultural developments, raising cattle, and stimulating an economy of French commercial goods.[3] The French colony which flourished on the western one-third of the island was officially recognized by Spain in 1697 under the Treaty of Ryswick and was named Saint Domingue. The Treaty of Ryswick divided the island into two distinctive cultures -- The French on the western side of the island and the Spanish on the eastern.[4]

 

From 1795 to 1844, the Dominican Republic was governed successively by France, Haiti, Spain and then Haiti again, until it finally declared its independence on February 27, 1844. The first National Constitution was signed, on October 22, 1844.  Unable to control the country effectively, the then governing authorities ceded the country back to Spain in 1861. Two years later, on August 16, 1865, independence was restored and a Second Republic proclaimed. Thereafter the new republic was subjected to a long power struggle between those who wanted to remain independent (The Blues) and those who supported the annexation of the country to France, Spain or the United States (The Reds).[5] The consequences of these conflicts led alternately to dictatorship (Ulises Heureux, 1882 - 1899), anarchy (1899 - 1916), occupation of the territory by the United States military forces (1916 - 1924), dictatorship (Rafael L. Trujillo, 1930 -1961) and finally democracy (1966 to present).

 

1.2.          Structure of the Government

The Constitution defines the system of government of the Dominican Republic as being civilian, republican, democratic and representative[6] and describes the State as social and democratic[7] founded on the respect for the human dignity, fundamental rights, labor, popular sovereignty and separation of powers. The powers of the government are divided into three independent branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.

 

1.2.1.      Legislative Power

Legislative power is invested in the National Congress, which is composed of two chambers: the upper body, the Senate and a lower body, the Chamber of Deputies.[8] Members of both chambers are elected by direct majority vote. Once elected Congressional Members serve for a four-year period and may be re-elected without time limitations.[9] The Congress, in its ordinary legislative functions, convenes two legislative sessions per year. Each regular session lasts for ninety days, but can be extended up to sixty additional days. The first session begins on August 16, and the second begins on February 27.[10]

 

In addition to its powers to enact laws, the Congress of the Republic is empowered to increase, or reduce regular or exceptional courts, to approve or reject international treaties and conventions concluded by the Executive Power, and has the authority to review and approve the national budget submitted by the Executive Power.[11]

 

The National Congress has constitutional authority to legislate over any matter. Any senator or deputy may introduce legislation in either house. The President of the Republic, the Supreme Court of Justice in judicial matters, the Central Electoral Board in electoral matters, also may introduce legislation in either house of the Congress.[12] The 2010 Constitutional reform introduced the popular legislative initiative by which not less than 2% of the citizens registered in the electoral registry may introduce a bill before the National Congress.[13]

 

Once a bill is approved, it is sent to the President of the Republic for promulgation and subsequent publication in the form established by law.[14] Article 1 of the Civil Code states that approved bills shall be published in the Official Gazette (Gaceta Oficial) and alternatively they also can be published in one or more major newspapers, in which case the publication must expressively indicate that it is an official publication and it will have the same legal effect as the Official Gazette.[15] The Constitution outlines three types of acts that can be enacted by Congress: laws relating to the public order, the police and security of the nation; organic acts regulating the structure and organization of the public functions; and ordinary acts.[16]

 

The Senate is composed of 32 members, one Senator elected by each province. The Senate is empowered to select the members of the Central Electoral Board, the members of the Chamber of Accounts and the Ombudsman.[17] The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 178 Deputies elected by territorial circumscription in representation of the National District and the provinces, distributed in proportion to the population density. An exclusive function of the Chamber of Deputies is to refer impeachments of public officials before the Senate for the commission of grave faults while in exercise of their functions.[18]

 

1.2.2.     Executive Power

Executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic who is elected with the Vice-President by direct vote for a four-year term. The President and Vice-President can be re-elected for the immediately following constitutional period.[19] The President of the Republic is the head of state, Head of the Public Administrative agencies, and also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the National Police. He appoints the cabinet of Ministers who assist him in his function.[20]

 

The President promulgates and publishes laws and resolutions passed by Congress, and he has the constitutional authority under Article 128(1b) of the Constitution, to issue decrees, regulations and instructions which are binding. The President also may enter into treaties with foreign nations and international conventions, but unless it is ratified by both houses of the Congress, the treaty will not be binding on the Dominican Republic.[21]

 

The various ministries and decentralized government offices, such as the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, may issue resolutions and norms which are also binding.

 

1.2.3.     Judicial Power

Judicial Power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice as well as by other courts created by the Constitution or by enacted laws.[22]

 

The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court of Justice, followed by the Courts of Appeal, the Courts of First Instance, and the Justices of the Peace. The system of justice also includes a Constitutional Court, the Public Ministry, and the Public Defender’s Office. The Judicial Bulletin (Boletín Judicial) is the official reporter of the Supreme Court of Justice decisions.

 

2.     The Legal System

 

2.1.          Historical Evolution

The legal system reflects the influence of successive occupancy of the island by foreign nations.

 

During the 22 years of Haitian occupation (1822 - 1844), the French legal system was imposed on the island, based on the Napoleonic Codes of 1804 -1810. After declaring its independence in 1844, under the Organic Law of the Tribunals of 1845 (Ley Orgánica de los Tribunales) a mixed judicial organization was applied by the Dominican Republic. The French Codes of 1815 were adopted as the codes of the Dominican Republic, in their original language, with the modifications set forth by the Constitution, and the Spanish system of courts established during the colonial era were maintained.[23]

 

The French codification remained in effect until Spanish translations of the five French codes were promulgated in 1884. These translated codes, with little adjustment to local needs remained as the law of the Dominican Republic for more than one hundred and fifty years[24]. The principal codes - the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, and the Commercial Code - were published in the Judicial Bulletin (Boletín Judicial) of the Supreme Court of Justice instead of the Official Gazette.

 

During the United States’ military intervention (1916 - 1924), the legal system was disrupted and the U.S. Military Government ruled the country by martial law through Executive Orders (Ordenes Ejecutivas). A total of 821 Executive Orders were enacted, touching on virtually all aspects of governmental administration. One of the most notable Executive Orders enacted was Executive Order No. 511, July 1, 1920, on Real Property by which the Torrens system of land registration was adopted as the land titling system of the Dominican Republic. It was modeled after the Philippines and Australian Torrens system, and remains in effect today.[25]

 

Following the United States occupation, during the Trujillo Era (1930 -1961), several important laws were enacted: Labor Code (1951);  Health Code (1956); the law that established the Courts for Minors (Ley No. 603 - 41 of 1941) along with family laws on child support, divorce and adoption; the  Administrative Contentious Jurisdiction (Ley No. 1494 - 47 of 1947) was established; the Registry of Property Rights Act (Ley No. 1542, Octubre 11, 1947, de Registro de Tierras) which derogated the Executive Order No. 511 of 1920; the law establishing the procedure for Cassation (Ley No. 3726-53); and legislation on the Civil Rights of Women (Ley No. 390-40 sobre los Derechos Civiles de la Mujer). The Official Gazette and the Judicial Bulletin were published without interruption during these years, and for more than 30 years, the basic laws underwent only minor modifications, despite the fact that the Dominican Republic was growing threefold in size.

 

From 1991 to 2005, major legislative and judicial reforms started taking place to adapt the legal and economic framework of the country to a global and regional integration. Legislative reforms included updating laws related to the development of critical economic and social sectors focusing on finance, investment and trade, environment, tax and customs, labor and social security.

 

Main judicial reforms were centered on expediting trials, and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary. Most notable were the reforms to the criminal and land jurisdictions. Revisions of the Criminal Procedure Code were undertaken to incorporate oral procedures and to guarantee the protection of constitutional rights; the land courts and title registry offices underwent a significant transformation, which resulted in the enactment of a new registry of property rights law and its regulations within the Torrens System.

 

ADR mechanisms were introduced as an alternative method of settling disputes; the National Judiciary School (Escuela Nacional de la Judicatura), the National School for Public Prosecutors (Escuela Nacional de Ministerio Público), and the Public Defender’s Office (Oficina Nacional de la Defensa Pública) were established.

 

2.2.         General Court System

Justice is administered by the Supreme Court of Justice and the other tribunals established by the Constitution or the laws.[26] The court system consists of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Courts of Appeal, Courts of First Instance, and the Justices of the Peace. At the time, the Torrens property system was adopted in the Dominican Republic (Executive Order No. 511, 1920), a separate system of Land Courts as a specialized jurisdiction within the legal framework was established. Other subject matter jurisdiction courts include the Courts for Minors, Labor Courts, and the Administrative Contentious Court.

 

The Council of the Judicial Power (Consejo del Poder Judicial) is the main administrative body of the Judiciary. It designates the lower court judges and administrative personnel and exercises the highest disciplinary authority over all members of the Judicial Power.

 

2.2.1.     Constitutional Court[27]

The Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) was established by the 2010 constitutional reform, to defend the fundamental rights and protect the constitutional order. Its decisions are final and irrevocable and constitute binding precedent for all public authorities and all State agencies. They hear direct actions of unconstitutionality of laws, decrees, regulations, resolutions and ordinances; the preventive control of international treaties before their ratification by Congress, and hears jurisdictional disputes between the public authorities. Thirteen judges sit at the Constitutional Court elected by the National Council of the Judiciary (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura), for a nine -year term and cannot be reelected.

 

2.2.2.     Supreme Court of Justice[28]

The Supreme Court of Justice (Suprema Corte de Justicia) is composed of not less than 16 Magistrates elected by The National Council of the Judiciary pursuant to Law No. 138-11 of June 21, 2011, for a seven-year term and can be reelected for another term.[29] The Council selects one Magistrate to serve as President of the Court, and designates a first and second substitute to replace the President of the Supreme Court of Justice in case of absence or incapacity.

 

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over any cause of action brought against the President, the Vice President, or other public officials, as designated in the Constitution. It hears appeals of Cassation and ordinary appeals from matters arising in the Courts of Appeals.[30]

 

The official reporter of Supreme Court of Justice decisions is the Judicial Bulletin (Boletín Judicial) which is also published electronically since 1910 on the Judicial Power of the Dominican Republic homepage under Consultas – Sentencias

 

For major provisions governing the Supreme Court of Justice, see under Poder Judicial – Normativas del Poder Judicial.

 

2.2.3.     Courts of Appeal[31]

The Court of Appeals functions primarily as an appellate body and it hears appeals from decisions issued by Courts of First Instance. Five judges sit on each of the courts, with the exception of the Courts of Appeals for Minors and the Contentious Administrative Court where a minimum of 3 judges sit.[32] The Courts of Appeals have original jurisdiction in charges against lower court judges, prosecuting attorneys, and provincial governors and mayors. Judgments of the Courts of Appeals from the National District since January 2001 until 2006, and decisions of the High Administrative Tribunal since January 1999 to December 2014 have been published electronically on the homepage of the Judicial Power, see under Consultas – Sentencias - Otras Sentencias.

 

2.2.4.     Courts of First Instance[33]

The Courts of First Instance are divided into: (a) Courts of First Instance with complete plenitude of jurisdiction which hear all matters; (b) ordinary courts of first instance which are divided into chambers as required to hear criminal, and civil and commercial matters; and (c) specialized courts of first instance which include: Minors and Juvenile Courts; Labor Courts; Land Courts of Original Jurisdiction; Judges for Execution of Sentences (Jueces de Ejecución de la Pena);  Courts of Control of Juvenile Sanctions (Tribunal de Control de Sanciones de la Persona Adolescente) and the Courts of Instruction (Juzgados de Instrucción) which have jurisdiction to resolve issues during the preparatory proceedings , conduct preliminary hearings, and deliver judgment under the rules of summary proceedings.

 

2.2.5.     Justices of the Peace[34]

The Justices of the Peace are courts authorized to hear small claim cases. They predominantly hear police and labor matters, as well as any other matter, which Congress, through legislation, empowers them to hear. There is at least one small court in each municipality, and one located in the National District. Only one judge presides on each Court of Peace. There are also special traffic courts competent to hear traffic violations.

 

2.3.         Specialized Courts

 

2.3.1.     Minors and Juvenile Courts

The Court for Minors and Juveniles (Tribunal de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes) addresses both civil and criminal matters, particularly issues pertaining to paternity, guardianship, visitation rights, alimony and adoption.

 

2.3.2.     Labor Courts

The Labor Courts (Cortes de Trabajo) were created by the Labor Code to resolve conflicts between workers and employers. There are fourteen (14) Labor Courts of First Instance and six (6) Labor Courts of Appeal.

 

2.3.3.     Land Courts

The Land Courts are concerned exclusively with procedures relating to clearing title to property, registering real property, and resolving other questions relating to real property. The Land Courts include four land courts of appeal (Tribunales Superiores de Tierras), which hear in second instance of all appeals filed against the decisions of the courts of original jurisdictions; and thirty-one (31) Land Courts of Original Jurisdictional (Tribunales de Tierras de Jurisdicción Original), they hear in first instance all actions on real property and territorial boundaries.  

 

2.3.4.     Administrative Contentious Court[35]

The Administrative Contentious jurisdiction is integrated by higher administrative courts (Tribunales Superiores Administrativos) and contentious administrative courts of first instance. These courts have jurisdiction over disputes filed against decisions, actions and provisions of the central government including administrative, tax, financial and municipal issues. Hear and determine in first instance or on appeal the contentious administrative actions that arise from conflicts between the public administration and its officers and civilian employees.[36]The decisions of the High Administrative Court have been reported since August 1996 on the homepage of the Judicial Power, see under Consultas – Sentencias – Otras Consultas – Tribunal Superior Administrativo.

 

2.4.         Public Ministry

The Public Ministry (Procuraduría General de la República) is responsible for directing the investigation of criminal acts, assisting with the prosecution of criminal actions and protecting the interests of the State. It is functionally independent of the Courts by means of Ley No. 133-11 Organic Statute of the Public Ministry.

 

The Public Ministry is composed by: The Attorney General of the Republic which represents the State before the Supreme Court of Justice; General Prosecutors before the Courts of Appeal; the Public Prosecutors who appear before the Courts of First Instance; and Public Attorneys who appear before the ordinary Justices of the Peace Courts. The Superior Council of the Public Ministry (Consejo Superior del Ministerio Público) is the main governing body overseeing the operation and functioning of the Public Ministry and exercises disciplinary control over its functionaries and employees.

 

For main legislation enacted which governs the Public Ministry see under Transparencia - Marco Legal.

 

3.     Primary Sources of Law

 

3.1.          Constitution

The first Constitution of the Dominican Republic was promulgated in 1844, immediately after the nation achieved independence from Haiti. By 1966, the Dominican Republic had adopted thirty-five constitutional amendments. The 1966 Constitution, enacted at the conclusion of the civil war of April 1965, provided the necessary legal basis to ensure democratic stabilization of the country.

 

In August 14, 1994, the 1966 Constitution of the Dominican Republic was modified. Among the most important amendments are: a) it established the National Council of the Judiciary (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura), which designated the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice; b) provided for the administrative and financial autonomy of the Legislative and Judicial Powers; and c) expanded the competence of the Supreme Court of Justice to hear matters regarding the constitutionality of the law, to include not only laws and resolutions emanated from Congress but also decrees and regulations from the Executive Power and other governmental offices.

 

The Supreme Court of Justice was given constitutional authority to designate the judges at all levels of the Judiciary, and authorized to exert disciplinary authority over all its members, putting an end to Executive and Legislative control over judges and personnel of the judiciary.

 

Eight years later, in 2002, Articles 49, 89 and 90 of the 1994 Constitution were amended to provide mainly for the presidential re-election and other electoral matters.

 

In January 26, 2010, the Dominican Republic promulgated a new Constitution (Official Gazette No. 10561). Some of the most significant measures introduced by the constitutional reforms included: creation of a Constitutional Court and a Judiciary Council to oversee the performance of the courts; the inclusion of mechanisms of direct democratic participation such as the referendum and plebiscite,[37] and popular legislative initiative.[38] This constitutional reform modified once again the reelection possibilities of the President, the president cannot be re-elected for the following constitutional period;[39] the right to life is inviolable from conception until death banning abortion under all circumstances.[40] The 2010 Constitution also bans citizenship for children of illegal immigrants;[41] and changes the designation of Secretariats of States by Ministries and municipal trustees (syndics) by mayors.[42]

 

The constitutional reform of June 13, 2015, modified Article 124 of the Constitution to allow once more the reelection of the President for a following consecutive term.

·       Constitution of the Dominican Republic, 2015 (Spanish)[43]

 

3.2.         Codes

 

3.2.1.     Civil Code

The dominant legal basis of the Dominican Republic is the Civil Code (Código Civil), enacted by the Decree of April 16, 1884. With amendments, this original code is largely still in effect today.

·       See the Civil Code updated through Law No. Ley 189-01.

 

3.2.2.     Code of Civil Procedure

The Code of Civil Procedure (Código de Procedimiento Civil) was enacted by the Decree of April 16, 1884. With amendments, this Code is still largely in effect today. See the Code of Civil Procedure updated through Law No. 489 on Commercial Arbitration, of December 11, 2008.

 

3.2.3.     Commercial Code

The Commercial Code (Código de Comercio) was enacted by the Decree of June 5, 1884. With modifications, this Code is still largely in effect today. See the Commercial Code updated through Law No. 479-08 of December 11, 2008, General Law of Corporations and Individual Limited Liability Companies (Ley General de las Sociedades Comerciales y Empresas Individuales de Responsabilidad Limitada).

 

3.2.4.     Criminal Code

The Criminal Code (Código Penal) enacted by the Decree-Law No. 2274 of August 20, 1884, includes the amendments introduced by Law No. 24 – 97, on domestic violence; Law 46-99 increasing the number and types of penalties in criminal matters and Law No. 36-00 expanding the jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace. This text of the Criminal Code also includes in extensor Act No. 12-07, January 5, 2007 raising the amount for fines and penalties for different offenses. This 1884 code is still in force. See the Penal Code.

 

3.2.5.     Code of Criminal Procedure

The Code of Criminal Procedure (Código Procesal Penal) was promulgated in July 19, 2002, by Ley No. 76-02, effective on September 27, 2004 (Official Gazette (GO), September 27, 2002). It abrogates and replaces the 1894 Criminal Procedure Code.

 

This Code effectively ended the French judicial tradition, originally adopted by Decree No. 58, July 4, 1845. It adopts an accusatory model, based on oral, public and contradictory proceedings and grants Public Prosecutors with the appropriate means to investigate violations, and the capacity to propose alternative methods for solving criminal proceedings.

 

Criminal jurisdiction is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice; the Courts of Appeal; Judges of the First Instance for Criminal Matters; Trial Judges; Judges for the Execution of Sentences; and by Justices of the Peace. Trial Judges are competent to resolve all issues, which arise during a preparatory proceeding, to conduct the preliminary proceedings, and to dictate relevant resolutions and sentences in accordance with abbreviated rules of procedure. The Judges of the Execution of Sentences are responsible for the enforcement of sentences, for rendering decisions related to the conditional suspension of proceedings, and for hearing issues submitted regarding implementation of the sentence.

 

Depending on the case, the Courts of First Instance are presided over by a sole judge who hears punishable acts, which are liable for monetary fines or punishment, by incarceration for a maximum of two years (or both penalties at the same time). The court expands to a bench of three judges for cases involving crimes, which are liable for punishment by incarceration greater than two years. They also have jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus actions.

 

See the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Dominican Republic July 19, 2002, as amended by Law No. 12-07, January 5, 2007 (GO No. 10409).  On February 10, 2015, the code of criminal procedure was further modified by Law No. 10-15 (GO No. 10791).

 

3.2.6.     Tax Code

The Tax Code (Codigo Tributario) was enacted by Law No. 11-92, in May 16, 1992. The Code covers matters regarding income tax, tax on the transfer of industrialized goods and services (ITBIS), and selective consumption tax. The Internal Revenue Office (Dirección General de Impuestos Internos) is the government office responsible for the collection of taxes and the enforcement of fiscal laws.

 

To assure an adequate level of income taxes, eliminate fiscal deficit, and reduce tax evasion, important amendments to the Tax Code have been introduced since year 2000 modifying tax figures and institutions.

 

Tax Code, May 16, 1992, updated through Law 182-09, July 10 2009 is available at the web page of the Internal Revenue Office. For recent amendments to the Code, and new enacted laws see under tax legislation (Leyes Tributarias)

 

3.2.7.     Labor Code

The Labor Code (Código de Trabajo) was enacted by Ley No. 16-92, May 29, 1992. It abrogates the 1951 Labor Code and subsequent modifications.  The Labor Code is a comprehensive piece of legislation that establishes policies and procedures for many aspects of employer/employee relationships. The Ministry of Labor (Ministerio de Trabajo) is the state agency responsible for overseeing the compliance of these regulations. The Labor Courts have jurisdiction over labor and employment disputes. The text of the Labor Code its regulation and related labor laws through 2012, is available on the homepage of the Ministry of Labor (under Marco Legal and Transparencia), (alternately on the ILO website).

 

3.2.8.    Code of the Minor

The Code of the Minor (Código para el Sistema de Protección y los Derechos Fundamentales de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes) enacted by Law No. 136-03 of August 7, 2003. This Code abrogates: Law No. 14-94, 1994, Code for the Protection of Children and Adolescents; Law No. 603-41 on Juvenile Courts, and Law No. 985-1945 on the Filiation of Children Born out of Wedlock.  This Code is a comprehensive law governing matters relating to the protection of children and adolescents, their rights and obligations. The Code was drafted based on the principles embedded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. See the Code updated through 2007.

 

3.2.9.     Monetary and Financial Code

The Monetary and Financial Code (Código Monetario y Financiero) was enacted as Law No. 183-02, of November 21, 2002 Ley Monetaria y Financiera. This Code outlines the principles of the monetary and financial system of the Dominican Republic, and consolidates in a single statute all monetary, financial and banking norms, and modernized the legal framework previously established by the financial reform of 1947. The 2002 Law abrogates the General Banking Law No. 708-65, of April 14, 1965 (Ley General de Bancos) and the Organic Law of the Central Bank No. 6,142 of December 29, 1962 (Ley Orgánica del Banco Central).

 

The banking system also is subject to the provisions contained in the resolutions dictated by the Monetary Board (Junta Monetaria). The Monetary Board, the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic and the Superintendence of Banking are the state agencies responsible for regulating and supervising the financial and monetary sector of the Dominican Republic.

 

Major pieces of legislation regulating the banking and financial system of the Dominican Republic are the following:

 

The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic and the Superintendence of Banking have an excellent website containing current norms regulating the banking system of the Dominican Republic, see under Marco Legal.

 

3.3.         Other Laws

 

Corporations

The main laws and regulations governing corporations are:

 

The Commercial Code (Código de Comercio)  updated through Law No. 479-08, General Law on Corporations and Individual Proprietorships with Limited Liability (Ley General de las Sociedades Comerciales y Empresas Individuales de Responsabilidad Limitada) of December 11, 2008. Law No. 479-08 repealed and replaced Title III of the Code of Commerce and represented a complete revision of Dominican company law, including regulation of mergers and corporate break-ups or divisions. On February 9 2011, Law No. 479-08 was substantially amended by Law No. 31-11. [44]

 

Decree No. 408-10 on Corporate Reorganizations establishing the criteria to harmonize regulations involving corporate concentrations.

 

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (Ministerio de Industria y Comercio) is the government agency responsible for formulating and implementing industrial policy, trade and mining and formulating energy policies in the Dominican Republic.

 

E-Commerce

Law No. 126-02, concerning Electronic Commerce, Documents, and Digital Signatures (Ley de Comercio Electrónico, Documentos y Firmas Digitales). This Act regulates the origin and conservation of data messages, and digital documents grating them legal value; establishes the requirements for the certification entities and regulates the certificates of digital signatures issued by the certification entities.[45] English and Spanish texts of the law are available on the webpage of the Dominican Institute for Telecommunications (INDOTEL) under Normativa.

 

Energy

The main laws and regulations governing energy are:

 

General Law on Electricity, No. 125-01, 26 of July 2001, as amended by Law No. 186-07, August 06, 2007 (Ley General de Electricidad), and its Regulations for the Implementation of the General Law on Electricity as amended by Decree 749-02 of 19 September 2002. See also Decree No. 494-07 further amending the Regulations for the Implementation of the General Law on Electricity.

 

Law No. 57-07 on Incentives for Renewable Energies and Special Regimes, May 7 2007 (Ley de Incentivo a las Energías Renovables y Regímenes Especiales). The main objectives of this law is to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels and increase the diversity of energy resources and stimulate private investment in renewable energy.

 

Implementing Regulations of Law No. 57-07, on Renewable Energies Incentives and Special Regimes, approved by Decree No. 202-08 of May 30, 2008.

 

The government agencies responsible for implementation of the law are the National Energy Commission (CNE), the Superintendent of Electricity (SIE), the Coordinating Agency for the Interconnected Electrical System, and the Dominican Corporation of State Electrical Companies (Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Eléctricas Estatales (CDEEE).

 

Environment & Natural Resources

The Environmental and Natural Resources Law No. 64-00 (Ley General de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), was promulgated on August 18, 2000. With Law No. 202-04, Sectorial Law on Protected Areas (Ley Sectorial de Áreas Protegidas), these two omnibus legislations are the most significant environmental laws of the Dominican Republic. They regulate the pollution of soil, water and air; dangerous substances; municipal and housing wastes, sound pollution; and the concession of rights for the use of natural resources, and delimits regions within the country to be protected. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) is the State agency responsible for the protection of the environment and development of natural resources, see under Transparencia – Base Legal for laws, resolutions and decrees regulating this sector.

 

See Law No. 64-00, General Law on Environment and Natural Resources, alternately see; and Law No. 202-04 on Protected Areas.

 

Family Law

A major piece of legislation on family matters is Law No. 136-03 Code for the Protection of the Fundamental Rights of Children and Adolescents (Código para el Sistema de Protección de los Derechos Fundamentales de los Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes). This law repeals Law No. 14-94 enacted on April 22, 1994, which instituted the code for the protection of children and adolescents. The National Council for Childhood and Adolescence (CONANI) is the administrative body of the National System for the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents. For other related family laws including adoption regulations, and international conventions ratified by the Dominican Republic on the rights of women and children, see under Sobre Nosotros  – Marco legal.

 

·       Law No. 136-03 Code for the Protection of the Fundamental Rights of Children and Adolescents.

·       Law No. 137-03 Unlawful Traffic of Migrants and Human Trafficking Dominican Republic (Sobre Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y Trata de Personas República Dominicana)

·       Law No. 24-97 on Domestic Violence (Que introduce modificaciones al Código Penal, al Código de Procedimiento Criminal y al Código para la Protección de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes)

·       For procedures and regulations on adoption see under Adoptions (Adopciones) on the homepage of CONANI. See as well Guzmán Ariza, Attorneys at Law homepage, the section on International Adoptions in the Dominican Republic for an English translation of Law. No. 136-03, Title V, Filiation through Adoption.

 

Foreign Investment

The Foreign Investment Law (Ley de inversión extranjera) was enacted by Ley No. 16-95, November 20, 1995 and its regulation, Reglamento de Aplicación No. 214-04, was enacted on March 11, 2004. These enactments abrogate Ley No. 861 of 1978, and Presidential Decree No. 380-96. This legislation marked the beginning of significant reforms eliminating restrictions to foreign investment and promoting the flow of capital into the country. The State agency responsible for promoting a favorable investment climate in the Dominican Republic is The Center for Export and Investment (Centro de Exportación e Inversión de la República Dominicana, CEI-RD).

 

The main pieces of legislation regulating foreign investment in the Dominican are the following:

·       Law No. 16-95 on Foreign Investment and its Regulation Decree No. 214-04, G.O. 10272 (Ley sobre Inversión Extranjera y Reglamento de Aplicación del Registro de la Inversión Extranjera en Republica  Dominicana)

·       Law No. 84-99 on Export Promotion and Reactivation (Ley sobre reactivación y fomento a las Exportaciones), and it’s regulation (Reglamento No. 213-2000 para la Aplicación de la Ley de Reactivación y Fomento de las Exportaciones)

·       Law No. 8-90 on Free Zones in the Dominican Republic and its implementing regulations (Ley sobre las Zonas Francas en la República Dominicana y su Reglamento de Aplicación), see under Marco Legal on the homepage of the National Council for Free Trade Zones (CNZFE), alternately see under Marco Legal on the homepage of the Dominican Association of Free Trade Zones (ADOZONA)

 

For bilateral and multilateral investment, agreements signed by the Dominican Republic see SICE Foreign Trade Information System, Dominican Republic page.

 

Intellectual Property

The Law No. 20-00 on Industrial Property (Ley sobre Propiedad Industrial), enacted on May 8, 2000, derogates and replaces Law No.4994 of April 26, 1911 on Patents and Inventions, and Law No.1450 of December 30, 1937, on Trademarks and Trade Names. It conforms to the TRIPS and other international agreements. The state agency charged with reviewing and granting patents and registering industrial property in the Dominican Republic is the National Industrial Property Office (Oficina Nacional de Propiedad Industrial, ONAPI). See Law No. 20-00 on Industrial Property (Ley sobre Propiedad Industrial) and its regulation Presidential Decree No. 599-01, and Decree Law No. 326-06 modifying articles 66 and 67 of the regulation.

 

The Copyright Law No. 65-00 (de Derechos de Autor) protects ownership rights over scientific, artistic or literary works. It replaces Law No. 32-86 on Intellectual Property Rights. Decree No. 362-01, enacted on March 14, 2001, contains the applicable regulations. The National Copyrights Office (Oficina Nacional de Derechos de Autor, ONDA) is the state agency charged with granting and registering copyrights.

·       Law No. 65-00 Copyright Law (de Derechos de Autor), amended by Law N° 2-07 modifying Article 189 of Copyright Law No. 65-00;

·       Decree N° 362-01 Regulations of Copyright Law (Reglamento de Aplicación de la Ley N° 65-00 sobre Derecho de Autor).

·        For Trademarks, Law No. 20-00 on Industrial Property, Title II, Articles 70 to 137 translated into English see homepage of Guzman Ariza Attorneys at Law, under Publications / Trademarks and Intellectual Property, available at, http://www.drlawyer.com/publication/

·       For intellectual property laws and regulations of the Dominican Republic see the Dominican Association of Intellectual Property (Asociación Dominicana de Propiedad Intelectual, ADOPI) under Sección Informativa - Tratados y Leyes.

 

Public Health

The General Health Law No. 42-01 (Ley General de Salud), was promulgated on March 8, 2001. This Law restructured the legal and institutional framework of the public health sector in the Dominican Republic. It abrogates Ley No. 4471, of June 3, 1956, known as the Health Code (Código de Salud). A National Health Commission was created to promote overall modernization of the health sector. The Ministry of Public Health (Ministerio de Salud Publica, MSP) is the state agency in charge of health services and is responsible for overseeing compliance with the Law.

 

Real Property

The prevalent registration system in the Dominican Republic is the Torrens system of real property registration, established by Executive Order No. 511, July 1, 1920 followed by Ley No 1542, October 11, 1947, on Real Property (Ley de Registro de Tierras).

 

In 2005 Law No. 108-05 on Registry of Real Property (Ley de Registro Immobiliario), was enacted, derogating Law No. 1542 of 1947 and substantially modifying Law No. 5038 on Condominiums, and Law No. 344 on Property Expropriations. The 2005 reform entailed a profound restructuring of institutions and procedures for adjudicating and registering property rights in the Dominican Republic within the adopted titling system, the Torrens System. The law is complemented by three different regulations governing the three main institutions of the system: surveyors, judges and title registrars.

 

The main pieces of legislation regulating the land jurisdiction are:

·       Law No.108-05, Registry of Real Property and Ley No. 51 -07 amending this law

·       General Regulations for Title Registry, Resolution No. 2669-2009 of 10 September 2009 as amended (Reglamento General de Registro de Títulos)

·       General Regulations for Cadastral Measurement (Reglamento General de Mensuras Catastrales) Resolution No. 628-2009, April 23, 2009

·       Regulations of the Higher Land Courts and Land Courts of Original Jurisdiction modified by Resolution No. 1737-2007, July 12, 2007 (Reglamento de los Tribunales Superiores de Tierras y de Jurisdicción Original de la Jurisdicción Inmobiliaria)

 

They can be found on the homepage of the Jurisdicción Inmobiliaria, under Marco Legal – Leyes and Reglamentos.

 

Securities

·       Law No. 19-00 on Securities Market of May 8, 2000 (Ley del Mercado de Valores), and Decree 729-04, Implementing Regulations to the Securities Market Act, repealing all regulations contained in Decree No. 729-02  (Reglamento de Aplicación de la Ley de Mercado de Valores) .

·       Law No.189-11 for the Development of the Mortgage Market and of Trusts in the Dominican Republic, dated July 16, 2011, (Desarrollo del Mercado Hipotecario y el Fideicomiso en la República Dominicana) creates a legal framework for the development of the mortgage and securities market and trusts in the Dominican Republic.

·       Law No. 146-02 on Insurance and Bonds of the Dominican Republic, authorizes the Superintendent of Insurance to oversee and to regulate insurance companies in the country (Ley sobre Seguros y Fianzas).

 

Social Security

Social Security Law enacted by Law No. 87-01, May 9, 2001. It completely modified the social security system of the Dominican Republic. It abrogates Ley No.1896 of 1944. This new law provides for mandatory and universal coverage for all Dominican nationals and foreigners residing in the Dominican Republic against risks of aging, disability, unemployment, sickness, maternity and childbirth, and labor risks. There are multiple government agencies regulating and supervising the social security system of the Dominican Republic providing access to laws, ordinances, minutes and resolutions some of which are: the National Social Security Council (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Social, CNSS), see under Documentos; Administrators of Occupational Health Risks (Administradora de Riesgos Laborales, ARLSS) see under Marco Legal, one finds laws, decrees, regulations and resolutions since 2002, and Superintendence of Pensions (Superintendencia de Pensiones, SIPEN), see under Marco Legal and Normativa.

 

3.4.         Law Reports and Compilations of Legislation

The Official Gazette (Gaceta Oficial)[46] is the official source of law reporting, and reports all statutes and laws passed by Congress, as well as decrees and regulations enacted by the Executive Branch. Published by the Consultoría Jurídica del Poder Ejecutivo, is accessible electronically, since 1844 on the Consultoría Jurídica del Poder Ejecutivo homepage under Consulta la Legislación.

 

Compendio de Leyes Usuales de la Republica Dominicana (Suprema Corte de Justicia, 2008) in 4vols. It has the 66 most  referred laws of the Dominican Republic. It does not include the main codes. 

 

 Colección de Leyes, Decretos y Resoluciones Emanadas de los Poderes Legislativo y Ejecutivo de la Republica Dominicana by Emmanuel Esquea Guerrero and Raymundo Amaro Guzmán (Oficina Nacional de Administración y Personal (ONAP), 1982 -1988). Fifty-six volumes were published, covering the laws, resolutions, decrees and regulations from 1844 to 1983, arranged in chronological order. Unfortunately, this effort was not continued and the country still does not have a law reporting system distinct from the Official Gazette. 

 

Compendio de Legislación y Jurisprudencia Dominicana: Índice de la Legislación Vigente en la Republica Dominicana en Fecha 31 de Diciembre de 1980 y Compilación de la Jurisprudencia Sentada por la Suprema Corte de Justica Durante la Década 1970-1979 by William C. Headrick (Amigo del Hogar, 1981) covering law and case law. This first volume was followed by two supplements: the First Supplement covered years 1980 to 1982 (Santo Domingo: Amigo del Hogar, 1983, p. 91), and the Second Supplement covered years 1983 – 1986 (Amigo del Hogar, 1987, p. 157); These were followed in 2000 by the Compendio Jurídico Dominicano: Jurisprudencia de la Suprema Corte de Justicia durante el Periodo 1970-1998 e Índice de la Legislación Vigente en la Republica Dominicana (2 ed. ampliada, 2000).

 

3.5.         Case Law Reports and Digests

The Judicial Bulletin (Boletín Judicial de la Suprema Corte de Justicia)[47], is the official source of reported court opinions. This Bulletin is published by the Supreme Court of Justice and is also accessible electronically since January 1994, on the Judicial Power homepage under ConsultasSentencias.

 

Case Law Digests

 

4.     Treaties and International Agreements

International treaties for which the Dominican Republic is a signatory are regulated by Article 26(2) of the Constitution; and Article 74(3) which provides that treaties and international conventions on human rights, signed and ratified by the Dominican Republic, have constitutional status and are of direct and immediate application by the courts and other state bodies.

 

The Dominican Republic has signed several free trade agreements, which are still in effect. The first free trade agreement was signed with Central America (April 16, 1998). Others, include agreements with CARICOM (signed August, 1998), the United States and Central America (DR-CAFTA) (signed August 5, 2004), a trade agreement with Panama (signed June 19, 2006), and The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called CARIFORUM (signed October, 2008).

 

International treaties and bilateral investment treaties now in effect in the Dominican Republic can be found at the following sites:

 

·       Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC), see under Comercio Exterior-Tratados Comerciales.

·       Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX), see under ServiciosInstrumentos Internacionales, or Acuerdos y Tratados.

·       Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), under Biblioteca-Recursos -Tratados en Línea, one finds a comprehensive compilation of international treaties and agreements signed by the Dominican Republic since 1844, organized by topics: international law, intellectual property, labor, culture, human rights, national security and mutual assistance, and environment.

·       SICE – Foreign Trade Information System, see under Countries/Dominican Republic.

 

5.     Legal Journals

 

6.     Legal Databases

Several efforts have been made by private entities to develop legal information databases in the Dominican Republic. The most relevant are:

 

Legal Database This free of charge database is developed by Ramos-Messina Law Firm. It indexes a selection of the most significant laws of the Dominican Republic, but only provides for the full text of the main codes.

 

LexLata is comprehensive commercial database of laws, decrees, resolutions, codes, case law, digest of cases and journal articles from Gaceta Judicial.

 

7.     Legal Websites

Most of the government offices responsible for the regulation and supervision of specific social or economic sectors provide access on their homepages to the legal framework of the sector. The websites make accessible the full text of laws, decrees, resolutions, regulations and often court decisions, international treaties, agreements and conventions signed by the Dominican Republic as well as the regulations set in force by the office. Law firms as well are publishing on their webpages the full text of recently enacted laws on areas related to foreign investment, commercial law and securities, and providing analysis of the changes introduced by these laws.

 

The following is a selected list of websites providing access to relevant primary and secondary legal resources: 

 

Government Websites

·       Central Bank of the Dominican RepublicInternal Revenue Office (DGII)  

·       Consultoría Jurídica del Poder Ejecutivo (CJPE)

·       Public Ministry (PGR)

·       Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

·       Superintendence of Banks (SB)

·       Superintendence of Health and Occupational Risks (SISARIL)

 

Law Firms

Pellerano & Herrera publishes legal guides and executive summaries on topics such as foreign investment, intellectual property, tourism, and telecommunications in English and Spanish.

 

Headrick, Rizik, Álvarez & Fernández, publishes books, articles and newsletters on legal reforms and the legal system of the Dominican Republic, in English and Spanish.

 

Arthur & Castillo, see under Publications in Spanish and English commentaries on purchasing real property in the Dominican Republic, commercial law, tax, trade and investment law.

 

Guzmán Ariza

 publishes comprehensive analysis of many different legal topics, real state, business, international trade, tourism, securities, taxation, litigation, trademarks and intellectual property, labor law, criminal law, immigration, renewable energy, international adoptions and divorce. Articles are written in English and Spanish.

 

8.    Legal Bookstores

There are several bookstores specializing in Dominican legal materials, among which are: Librería Jurídica Virtual; Gaceta Judicial publishers as well of the fee based database LexLata, and Librería y Papelería La Filantrópica.

 



[1] World Statistics Pocketbook.- New York, N.Y.: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, 2015 at 63, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/publications/pocketbook

[2] WENCELAO VEGA B., LOS DOCUMENTOS BASICOS DE LA HISTORIA DOMINICANA 138 (1994).

[3] Salvador V. Delgado, The Legal System of the Dominican Republic, in 7 MODERN LEGAL SYSTEMS CYCLOPEDIA, 140.8 (Kenneth Robert Redden ed., 1984). This work is a valuable source, in English, on the evolution of the Legal System of the Dominican Republic until 1985.

[4] WENCESLAO VEGA B., LOS DOCUMENTOS BASICOS supra note 1, at 110. 

[5] Salvador V. Delgado, The Legal System supra note 2, at 140.11 

[6] CONSTITUCION DE LA REPUBLICA DOMINICANA [CONST. DOM. REP.] art. 4.

[7] Id., art 7.

[8] Id., art 76.

[9] Id., art 78.

[10] Id., art 89.

[11] Id., art 93.

[12] Id., art. 96.

[13] Id., art 97.

[14] Id., art. 101 and art. 109.

[15] CIVIL CODE, art. 1

[16] CONST., art. 111 – 113.

[17] Id., art. 78, 80.

[18] Id., art. 81, 83.

[19] Id., art. 124.

[20] Id., art. 134.

[21] Id., art. 128(d).

[22] Id., art. 149.

[23] WENCESLAO VEGA & AMERICO MORETA CASTILLO, HISTORIA DEL PODER JUDICIAL DOMINICANO 196 (Suprema Corte de Justicia 2005), see also WENCESLAO VEGA B., HISTORIA DEL DERECHO DOMINICANO 298 (2004).

[24] WENCESLAO VEGA B., HISTORIA DEL DERECHO DOMINICANO supra note 15, at 302.

[25] Id., 351

[26] CONST., art. 149.

[27] Id., art. 184-189

[28] CONST., art. 152-154

[29] Law No. 138-11, June 21, 2011 (Ley Orgánica del Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura), art. 26.

[30] CONST. art. 154.

[31] Id., art. 157-159.

[32] Law No. 821, November 21, 1927, (Gaceta Oficial No. 3921), Ley de Organización Judicial, as amended, art. 32.

[33] CONST., art. 160-161.

[34] Id., art. 162-163

[35] Id., art. 164.

[36] JODY GRANADOS, EVOLUCION DE LA JUSTICIA CONTENCIOSO-ADMINISTRATIVA EN REPUBLICA DOMINICANA (2009), this article summarizes the historical evolution of the contentious administrative jurisdiction in the Dominican Republic.

[37] CONST. art. 203.

[38] Id., art. 97.

[39] Id., art. 124.

[40] Id., art. 37.

[41] Id., art. 18(3).

[42] Id., art. 134 and art. 201.

[43] CONSTITUCION DE LA REPUBLICA DOMINICANA, proclamada el 13 de junio de 2015 Gaceta Oficial No. 10805 del 10 de julio de 2015.

[44] Roberto Rizik Cabral, Sarah de León & Claudia Taveras, Dominican Republic, in GETTING THE DEAL THROUGH MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS IN 68 JURISDICTIONS WORLDWIDE 112-116 (Casey Cogut, contributing ed. 2012)

[45] PELLERANO & HERRERA, DOING BUSINESS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 42 (2011),

[46] Gaceta Oficial de la Republica Dominicana (Imprenta de García Hermanos 1858).

[47] Boletín Judicial de la Suprema Corte de Justicia 1 (Editorial del Caribe 1910).