An Electronic Guide to Mexican Law
By Francisco A.
Avalos and Elisa Donnadieu
Read the Update!
Francisco Avalos is Foreign and
International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona College of Law
Library. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in
1971 and his Master of Library Science in 1976. He is the author of several
books and articles dealing with the legal system and history of Mexico. He has
served as past President and Secretary of AALL FCIL- SIS and has made several
presentations on the Mexican legal system at national conferences and
conventions. He has been a special consultant to the National Law Center for
Inter-American Free Trade for the last ten years.
Elisa Donnadieu is a 1997 graduate of the
University of Arizona College of Law. She has worked with the Pima County
Public Defender’s office since 1998 and continues to do so on a part-time
basis. Currently, she is enrolled in the Library Science Master’s program at
the University of Arizona and has a fellowship with the University of Arizona
College of Law Library.
Update to an article previously
published on LLRX.com on March 1, 2002
Table of Contents
I. A Brief History of the Mexican Legal System
II. Federal Government
III. Major Primary Federal Legislation
IV. Legislation Sources
V. Official Mexican Government Websites
VI. Political Parties
VII. State Governments
IX. Overall Coverage of Mexico
X. Free Translation Sites
I. A Brief History of the Mexican Legal System
Mexican legal system has historical roots that go back to 16th century Spanish
law and to Pre-Colombian indigenous law. After the Spanish conquered the Aztec
Empire, they found an advanced indigenous legal system in place. The Spanish
crown did not rid itself of the indigenous legal system completely; instead, it
kept those indigenous laws and legal institutions that did not go directly
against the Spanish customs or against Church Doctrine. The Spanish Crown also
introduced its own laws and legal institutions.
Mexico finally established independence, it went through a series of different
constitutions. The current Mexican Constitution is commonly referred to as the
1917 Constitution. The official name is the Political Constitution of the United
Mexican States (Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos). The
Federal Constitution is the most important political document in Mexico.
It is the
source and origin for all Mexican law. The hierarchy of sources of law in the
civil law tradition to which Mexico’s legal system belongs are, “constitution,
legislation, regulation, and custom.” The constitution will override all
legislation, legislation will override all regulation, and regulation will
override all custom.
Branch - According to the Mexican Constitution, the executive may initiate only
certain types of legislation; however, in practice, the executive branch
initiates almost all legislation, especially any legislation on any
consequence. This is the branch with the most political power.
President - This is the president’s official website,
which is also available in English. The President is elected to a six-year
term with no possibility of reelection.
Branch - The legislative branch of the federal government is comprised of the
Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Legislative sessions begin on September 1
and must end by December 31; although, a special session may be called by, and
only by, the Permanent Committee. The Permanent Committee is composed of 15
deputies and 14 senators, and is elected by their respective chambers at the
end of each regular legislative session.
Senate - There are two (2) senators per state. Senators are
elected by direct popular vote to a 6-year term. They cannot be reelected for
an immediately succeeding term. The Senate may initiate certain legislation.
Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados) - Deputies are elected to a three (3) year
term and there is one deputy for every 250,000 people in a state.
Three-fourths of the deputies are elected by direct popular vote, with the
remaining one-fourth selected in proportion to the votes received by each
political party. They also cannot be reelected for an immediately succeeding
Chamber of Deputies is the only branch that may initiate bills concerning
loans, taxes, imposts, and the recruitment of troops. However, in practice the
executive branch initiates almost all legislation. The official website (in
Spanish) for all such legislation is http://www.cddhcu.gob.mx/leyinfo.
It provides very complete collection of over 230 codes, statutes, laws,
regulations and other legal materials. The materials are all in Spanish and
are updated on a regular basis. The site lacks a search engine, but the
materials can be accessed by name and article number. I highly recommend this
site for all Mexican legal research. This site is not for the novice. The
site is free.
Branch - The federal judiciary is governed by Articles 94 through 107 of the
Constitution and the Organic Law of the Federal Judiciary. There are no
elected judges in Mexico, they are all appointed.
Supreme Court - The Supreme Court has final
appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts. It is composed of 11
Justices and one (1) Chief Justice. The justices are nominated by the President
and the Senate may approve with a 2/3 majority; however, if the Senate fails to
act within 30 days, the appointment becomes automatic. The Justices are
appointed with life tenure but they may be removed by the President with the
approval of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
III. Major Primary Federal Legislation
The Constitution calls for a federal democratic republic composed of free and
sovereign states. All power is derived from the people. There is a centralized
federal government and individual state governments. The Constitution is the
source and origin of all Mexican laws. It overrides all legislation and
codes/laws. Codes/laws override all regulations, and regulations override any
Mexican Constitution is based on seven (7) basic principles: a declaration of
human rights, national sovereignty, division of powers, the representative
system, a federal structure, constitutional remedies, and the supremacy of the
state over the church. The Constitution calls for an active government that
has a moral obligation to not only promote human and political rights, but also
economic, social and cultural rights. The Constitution is seen as an
instrument that should bring social change.
is divided into nine sequential titles. The titles are subdivided into
chapters, which are not sequential. The chapters are further subdivided into
articles, which are sequential throughout the Constitution. The Constitution
also has transitory articles. All Mexican states have their own state
constitution. The Mexican Constitution can be found in English here.
Code (Código Civil para el Distrito
Federal en Materia Común y para Todo la Republica en Materia Federal) - The Mexican Civil Code is the most
important piece of legislation after the Mexican Constitution. The scope and
coverage of the Civil Code is extremely broad. The Civil Code reflects the
revolutionary spirit and nationalism of the Mexican Constitution of 1917. In
the Civil Code, community interests override individual interests, private
property rights are not absolute, the “less able” are protected from the "most
able" (unjust enrichment) and agrarian rights are established.
Code consists of over 3,000 individual articles organized into books, titles,
chapters, articles and sections. There are four books in the Code; Book 1,
Persons (individuals and corporations), Book 2, Property, Book 3, Succession,
Book 4, Obligations. The Code articles are numerically arranged, with each
article getting a unique
number. This means that all you need to find a particular provision in the
Civil Code is the article number, and not the book number, title number and
chapter number. The Mexican States have their own civil codes, most of which
are copies or are based on the Federal Civil Code.
code has been translated into English; none could be found on the Internet; one
website where it is available in Spanish is here.
(“Jurisprudenica” and “Tesis Sobresalientes”) - See Supreme Court:
Code - The Commercial Code has wide application in Mexico. It is federal code
because commercial matters fall under federal jurisdiction. Code Commercial
code regulates: all commercial activity including contracts, documentary
credit, credit institutions, land and water transportation, bankruptcy and
arbitration. It also covers procedures for commercial litigation.
is organized into five books. Book 1 covers Merchants, Book 2 covers Overland
Commerce, Book 3 has been repealed (it covered maritime commerce), Book 4
covers Bankruptcy, and Book 5 covers Mercantile Actions. The Code is further
subdivided into titles, chapters and articles (over 1460 articles). There
exists in Mexico further commercial legislation that is not part of the
Commercial Code. The Mexican States do not have their own commercial code. There
are several versions of the Commercial Code in translations.
Diario Oficial de la Federacion - In Civil Law tradition countries
all legal matters/legislation must be published in the “Official Gazette”
before it can go into effect. The gazettes, which are legal newspapers, are
known as “diarios” or “gacetas” in Mexico, and are published on a daily basis
by the government. This is the official source for all new legislation.
The Diario Oficial may be found online for free but
the text is in Spanish. These are available in English for a membership fee here.
library may have them depending on their international/foreign law collection.
You may also purchase a subscription on line.
- Institute for Legal
Studies (Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas, UNAM) - The
Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas is the foremost legal institute in
Mexico and Latin America. The site offers a comprehensive collection of
not just primary materials, but also secondary materials. The materials
are in Spanish and are updated on a regular basis. Mexican Federal and State
legal materials are available. I highly recommend this site for all
Mexican legal research. Spanish and a basic knowledge of the Mexican
legal system are required to make full use of this site. The site is
Mexicana (Grupo Universal de Derecho A.C.,
Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas de la UMAN) - This is another
website that the Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas maintains. The
emphasis is on "jurisprudencia" case law, which is organized by
subject manner. All of the materials are in Spanish, but the site is user
friendly. I recommend this site for "jurisprudencia" research.
- Mexican Laws in English
- This site has a good collection of laws, regulations, decrees and
standards. The main areas it covers are customs, maquiladoras,
transportation, labor, health and the environment. The value of this site
is that the materials are available in English translation. The site
claims over 3,000 pages of translated materials. This is the ideal site
for people that do not speak Spanish, but want to work with Mexican Law.
This is not a free site, but the charges are reasonable for translations.
- Library of Congress:
Global Legal Information Network - This is a very good starting
point for the novice researcher of Mexican Law. The site provides links
to more than legal information on Mexico (country reports, commerce
guides, government guide, etc.). The values of this site are the many
links that lead to primary materials. There are few documents online at
this site; it is mostly made up of very useful links. The site is updated
on a regular and frequent basis.
- Biblioteca Digital del
Sistema ITESM - This is a site created and run by the Law
School at the Tec of Monterrey. The site is in Spanish and offers Mexican
primary legal materials and secondary legal materials. There are many
good legal studies available at this site. Some services are restricted
to Tec Students and Tec Faculty.
- Internet Law Library:
Laws of Other Nations: Mexico (in Spanish) - Legislation site;
provides the user with the Mexican Civil Code, the Federal Constitution,
its reforms and the most recent Constitution, as well as the different
State constitutions, etc. This is a very comprehensive site.
- National Law Center for
Inter-American Free Trade - This is the most complete Mexican
Law site that I have found. The collection of primary and secondary legal
materials available is comprehensive. The site has laws, regulations, decrees,
standards and secondary resources. It also has access to the “Diario
Oficial” on a daily basis. There are translations available at this site.
Translations are also available upon request. The site has a search
engine that makes for easy access to the materials. This is a one-stop
store for Mexican legal materials. This site is ideal for the serious researcher,
whether he/she might speak Spanish or not. This is not a free site, but
the fees are very reasonable.
V. Official Mexican Government Websites
- This website
provides links to various Mexican governmental websites, including the
official federal ministries and federal agencies sites, state sites, etc.
- El Portal Ciudadano del Gobierno Federal
Mexicano - This is the official Mexican Government website. The site is a very complete website
on Mexican information that has a very good legal section. This is a
"must" view site for anyone doing research on Mexico. The
materials are in Spanish and the site is free.
- Governments on the WWW:
Mexico - This is the most extensive collection of links to the Mexican
Government that I have found on the net. The site is divided into:
Federal Institutions, State Institutions, City Institutions and
Representations in Foreign Countries. The materials are mostly in
- Law Research -
This site is a collection of links to many federal and state government
offices in Mexico. The list is extensive and lists more government offices
than you normally find on any one site. The site also has links to
Mexican legal primary materials and secondary materials. The site has a
search engine that helps a great deal to find what you may need. This
site is a very good site for people interested in the Mexican Government’s
structure and functions. Most links are to Spanish language sites.
- BANCOMEXT -
This site contains links to Mexican Government Agencies and Information.
The list of government offices is comprehensive. Some state agencies are
included, which adds to the value of this site. Also included are links
to some of the top educational institutions in Mexico. Most all
information is in Spanish.
- This site (in
Spanish) provides a list of different governmental agencies and links to
- Partido Accion Nacional
(in Spanish) – This site includes basic information on the party, its
history, its different candidates and elected officials, how to become a
member of the party; the party’s views on “female politics” and issues
relating to juveniles.
- Political Database of the
Americas - This database is mainly a collection of links to
information on Mexico’s political system. This database is organized
around seven major subject headings: (1) Constitution, (2) Electoral
System, (3) Civil Society, (4) Political Parties, (5) Executive
Institutions, (6) Legislative Institutions and (7) Judicial Institutions.
Most links are to primary materials in Spanish. The federal coverage is
good, but the state coverage is very limited.
Mexican State has its own “Diario”. They are also known as “gacetas” and
- Red de Informacion
Municipal/Centro de Servicios Municpales Legislacion Mexicana -
This website is dedicated to municipal law in Mexico and in the world
(limited). There are other materials relating to municipal issues such as
social and economic development. The materials are in Spanish, but the instructions
for navigating the website are in Spanish and English. The site has
several hot links to Mexican Government offices and it is free.
- Aguascalientes – (in Spanish) Go to
“servicios”, then click on “Leyes y Reglamentos”, then go to “Legislacion del
Estado de Aguascalientes”. There you will find the regulations, codes, laws,
- Baja California
– (in Spanish) Lots of info. This website provides quite a good
deal of information including information on their economy and their
Financial Department - that provides information on State's financial
situation and their public debt. Information on their water department,
services the State government offers, how the State government is
organized and a directory of the different State Agencies, the structure
of the State government, and names and phone numbers of the officials.
- Baja California Sur
– (in Spanish) Official State website for Baja California Sur. This
site provides information on the State government’s structure and
organization, and provides a link to the State’s constitution and its laws,
which are made available in PDF form. There is also information on the
climate and tourist attractions, and the education system in Baja
- Campeche –
(in Spanish) This site provides information on the government, tourism,
and links to the different State governmental agencies. There is a link
to the State Attorney General, once there one can access pages on how to
report different crimes and on crime prevention. You can search the site
- also there is a link to the legislature, which provides its history, the
current legislation as well as a directory of the different commissions
- Chiapas –
(in Spanish) There is a link to the Judicial Library that provides the
different State laws including the State constitution and also the Federal
- Chihuahua –
(in Spanish) This website provides information on the history, government,
and tourism of the State. It also has a link to the different government
agencies including the judicial branch and specifically to the Attorney
- Chohuila –
(in Spanish) Official website that includes information on the government,
but also the laws of the State and other legislative information.
- Colima –
(in Spanish) This site provides the history of the State and its Aztec
origins and information on education and tourism in State. Also provides
information on the government including the judiciary and the attorney
general’s office. I did not find the laws of the state; however, the
legislature does publish and make available its official reports/newspapers,
which summarize the different bills introduced and what happened.
- Districto Federal
– (in Spanish) This site has an option to translate into English,
but it is not a good translation at all. Official website that supplies
the state’s law.
- Durango –
(in Spanish) This site is not initially very user friendly; in order to
find the governmental information, click on “informe.” This takes you to
a boarder menu. This site is not always functioning properly.
- Guanajuato –
(in Spanish) The State’s laws are available on this official website.
- Guerrero - (in
Spanish) One can access their legislative page by first clicking on
- Hidalgo –
(in Spanish) This site did not have the state’s laws or constitution
available. The one thing it did provide is names and addresses of the
different state’s agencies.
- Jalisco –
(in Spanish) This is a very comprehensive site. Not only does it present
a history of the law, it also makes available the different laws, the
constitution, and the make up of the congress among other things.
- Mexico State –
(in Spanish) This official site does supply the state’s constitution and
its different laws, but one must conduct a search for “constitucion” and
“leyes”, respectably. Otherwise, these are not available from the main page.
- Michoacan –
(in Spanish) This site does provide the state’s codes, laws and constitution,
but it is not easy to find initially. Click on “Gobierno”, “Poder
Ejecutivo” then “Legislacion Estatal” and once there, go to the index
(“Indice General”) this will provide you with a list of the information.
- Morelos –
(in Spanish) Once at the website click on ‘gobierno” and then “nuestras
leyes”- has constitution, laws, regulations and codes.
- Narayit –(in
- Nuevo Leon –
(in Spanish) From this official site’s homepage, one can go directly to
the state’s laws, codes, regulations and constitution by clicking on
“Leyes y Reglamentos”. The documents are available in html format and PDF
- Oaxaca –
- Puebla –
(in Spanish) Find laws, constitution and regulations under “Legislacion
- Queretaro –
(in Spanish) The official state website does not provide information on
the laws, regulations, or the judicial branch.
- Quintana Roo –
(in Spanish) Once at the homepage, click on “legislacion,” that will take
you directly to where the laws, constitution and regulations are posted.
- San Luis Potosi
– (in Spanish)
- Sinaloa –
(in Spanish) The laws and codes are easy to find. After entering the
site, click on “Transparencia” and then “Leyes y Códigos”.
- Sonora –
(in Spanish) There is an English version that is currently under
- Tabasco –
(in Spanish) Unable to find laws, constitution, etc.
- Tamaulipas –
(in Spanish) Very friendly site; there was a link to the laws and
constitution on the homepage.
- Tlaxcala –
(in Spanish) Also friendly; can get directly to the laws from the
- Veracruz –
(in Spanish) In order to find the legal information, you need to search
for “leyes” which will provide a very comprehensive list. There is an
option to view the site in English; however, there is a very limited
amount of information you can access in English.
- Yucatan –
(in Spanish) Go to “administración” and at the bottom of that page click
on “leyes y normas,” which appears in very fine print. Not many of the
laws are provided although the constitution is.
- Zacatecas –
(in Spanish) Once at the homepage, go to “poder legislativo” to find the
law. However, you will only find the law granting the different branches
power and the constitution.
- American Law Sources
On-line - This site is a collection links dealing with the
legal systems of the NAFTA Countries. The site has introductions to the
legal systems of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mexican Federal
and States legal materials are covered. This site is an excellent site
for people wanting to be informed about the three NAFTA partners.
- FASonline - This
site belong to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and contains the text of
the NAFTA Agreement, plus many more documents relating to NAFTA and
agricultural issues. The site has a good search engine that facilitates
navigating the site. This is an excellent site for agriculture matters and
- This site is dedicated to Mexican Government's Websites and to the
Mexican State Governments.
- United States-Mexico
Chamber of Commerce - This site is a one-stop shopping center
for NAFTA materials. The coverage is comprehensive, and covers the text
of the agreement, information on the Mexican Government, information on
the Mexican Economy and information on studies dealing with all aspects of
NAFTA. The site has an index that facilitates access to the materials
that are in English and Spanish. The site also offers links to other
NAFTA related sites.
- NAFTA Facts - This
site is, “designed to provide you with convenient access to current trade
related documents concerning NAFTA and exporting to Mexico and Canada.”
The site is organized around the following heading; North American Free
Trade Agreement Series, Announcements/Reports, Doing Business in Mexico,
Doing Business in Canada, NAFTA Rules of Origin and Customs Information.
The information is in English and kept current. This is a comprehensive
site on NAFTA.
- NAFTA: Mexican Ministry
of Economy, Embassy of Mexico, Washington D.C - This site’s
purpose is to “promote exports and foreign investment in Mexico, to assist
companies to do business with Mexico, and to follow up-to-date Mexico-U.S.
trade relations.” The site is more business-related than legal, but the
information is up-to-date and gives good coverage of NAFTA’s legal issues.
The information is in English.
- NAFTA Information; NAFTA
Information Center; U.S. Customs Service - This site was
created to “provide the import and export community and the Customs
Service with accurate information on NAFTA Agreement”. The site is
trilingual and is more business-related than legal.
- United States Immigration
Service Center: NAFTA - This site has comprehensive information
on the immigrations issues associated with NAFTA. There is information on
the procedures and requirements for temporary movement of professionals.
Coverage of Mexico
- Mexico Online
(in English) - This website provides excellent basic overview of how the
Mexican Legal System is set up and functions. There are overviews
provided on Immigration, Criminal, Property law, etc. The site is ideal
for students or lawyers who practices. It is a very good site that gives
the basics, and a site that can be starting point. Also provided is,
“Mexican Laws in English” that includes some laws and the implementation,
but not many. Also supplies a list of lawyers and links to their sites.
- A Mexican Legal System:
Immigration Laws (in English)
- Mexican Legal System:
Overview (in English) -Compares Mexico’s Civil system to the
United States’, brief overview of Mexican litigation and courts; and who
are the key players.
- International Law Topic
Area (in English) - Provides some info on Mexican Real Estate
law and the Mexican Foreign Investment Act of 1993.
- Latin American Network
Information Center - This site offers general comprehensive
coverage of Mexico. It also offers a NAFTA site. Legal matters are
covered, as well as many other areas of interests. This is a very good
site for anyone interested in Mexico, be it legal or non-legal
information. This is a very complete site on Mexico and NAFTA.
- Library of Congress:
Federal Research Division; Country Studies - This site is not a
legal site, but a general information site on Mexico. The history of
Mexico is organized in the form of a detailed outline with links to the
body of the text for each outline topic. The historical periods covered
in the outline go from the pre-conquest of Mexico to the present. The
site has a search engine that makes for easy access to the material. The
site is updated on a regular and frequent basis. All on-site materials
are in English.
- Department of State:
Office of Mexican Affairs - This is the official site of the
United States Department of State. The site contains vast amount of
information on Mexico on the following topics: Bilateral Relations,
Business Information, NAFTA Information, the Mexican Government, and on
the many websites (links) that have Mexican legal/commercial information.
The Country Reports, Commercial Guides, Travel Information Sheets and the
Visa Requirements are examples of very useful information found at the
site. Information is found both in English and Spanish.
- Travel to Mexico - Mexico
Online: The Online Guide to Mexico - This site is a complete
guide to Mexico for tourist and business people interested in Mexico. The
links listed provide coverage from legal matters to cultural events. Some
of the database links listed are in English while some are in Spanish.
This is a very comprehensive site on Mexico.
- Mexican Law: The Best
Mexican Web sites - This is a website created by Jorge A.
Vargas of the University of San Diego School of Law. Mr. Vargas states
that his site will provide the reader with the best, “web sites in English
containing legal and historical information about Mexico”. This is a
quality website with information for the advanced researcher as well as
for the novice researcher.
- University of San Diego;
Legal Research Center/Broader Borders - This is a very complete
site for Mexican legal research. The site is organized around 7 topics:
"Bibliographies, Guide to Treatises, Statutes, Spanish-English Legal Dictionaries,
Mexican Websites, English Language Websites and Miscellaneous". This
site also offers NAFTA information with hot links to the major NAFTA
websites. The site was created for English speakers.
- Mexico Business Opportunities
and Legal Framework (BANCOMEXT and Goodrich, Requelme and
Associates) - This sites consists of a guide to doing business in Mexico.
All of the aspects of doing business in Mexico are considered such as:
General Considerations, Investment Framework, Directs Sales, Exports From
Mexico, Direct Investment, Exchange Controls, Dispute Resolution, Real
Estate, immigration, etc. This is a must view site for anyone considering
doing business in Mexico.
– Babelfish - is
pretty decent/better than most other translation sites. I would not recommend FreeTranslation.