Guide to Legal Research in the Dominican Republic


By Marisol Florén-Romero[1]


Marisol Florén-Romero earned her PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana – Champaign in 1994, and a Masters Degree in Library Science with a minor in Latin American Librarianship from the University of Texas, in Austin, Texas. She worked for ten years in the Dominican Republic in judicial reform programs under the Supreme Court of Justice of the Dominican Republic, and as legal information specialist for Pellerano & Herrera Law Firm, developing Infojuris, the electronic database of Dominican legal materials. Marisol Floren is co-author with Frank Moya Pons of Bibliografia del Derecho Dominicano an index to Dominican legal literature from 1844 to 1996. She currently works as the International and Foreign Reference Librarian at Florida International University (FIU), College of Law Library.


Published April 2007

Please, Read the Update!


Table of Contents

General Information

                  Historical Background

                  Structure of the Government

                                    Executive Power

                                    Legislative Power

                                    Judicial Power

The Legal System

Legal Reforms

General Court System

                  Supreme Court of Justice

                  Courts of Appeal

                  Courts of First Instance

                  Justices of the Peace

                  Special Courts

                                    Courts of Minors

                                    Labor Courts

                                    Land Courts

                                    Tax Courts

                  Public Ministry

Primary Sources Of Law



                                    Civil Code

                                    Code of Civil Procedure

                                    Commercial Code

                                    Criminal Code

                                    Code of Criminal Procedure

                                    Tax Code

                                    Labor Code

                                    Code of the Minor

                                    Monetary and Financial Code

                  Other Laws

                  Law Reports

                  Case Law Reports and Digests

                  Treaties and International Agreements

Secondary Sources

                  Reference Sources

                  Legal Journals

                  Legal Databases

Legal Websites

Legal Bookstores

Law Schools

Law Firms



General Information

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, and supports a population of 8.9 million inhabitants.


Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Dominican Republic 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].


From 1607 forward France began to advance and colonize the western side of Hispaniola by taking over large portions of land belonging to Spain 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. Soon after, the French colony of Saint Domingue was established which 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)

Structure of the Government

The Constitution defines the system of government of the Dominican Republic as being civilian, republican, democratic and representative. The powers of the government are divided into three independent branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

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 may be re-elected for one additional period, as provided by the last amendment made to the Constitution in 2002[6]. 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. He appoints the cabinet of 18 ministers, denominated Secretarios de Estado (Secretaries of State), who assist him in his function. 


The President promulgates and publishes laws and resolutions passed by Congress, and he has the constitutional authority under Article 55, section 2 of the Constitution, to issue decrees, regulations and instructions which are binding, but subject to legislative modification. The President also may enter into treaties with foreign nations, but unless it is ratified by both houses of the Congress, the treaty will not be binding on the Dominican Republic[7].


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

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.  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. Congressional and municipal elections are held in even - numbered years not divisible by four. The Congress, in its ordinary legislative functions, convenes two legislative sessions per year. The first session begins on August the 16th, and the second begins on February the 27th. Each regular session lasts for ninety days, but can be extended up to sixty additional days.


In addition to its powers to enact laws, the Congress of the Republic is empowered to increase, reduce or abolish 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.[8]


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, and the Central Electoral Board also may introduce legislation in either house of the Congress.


Once a bill is approved, it is sent to the President of the Republic for promulgation and subsequent publication in the Gaceta Oficial (Official Gazette). Alternatively, Article 1 of the Civil Code states that approved bills 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 effect as the Official Gazette.


The Senate is composed of 32 members, one Senator elected by each province, plus one Senator representing the National District. The Senate is empowered to select the members of the Central Electoral Board and the members of the Chamber of Accounts.


The Chamber of Deputies is composed of members elected for each province, one for every 50,000 inhabitants or fraction thereof greater than 25,000, but in no case shall a province have less than two Deputies. There are 177 Deputies. An exclusive function of the Chamber of Deputies is to refer impeachments of public officials before the Senate in matters enunciated by Article 23, Section 4 of the Constitution.

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.


The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court of Justice, followed by the Courts of Appeal, the Land Courts, the Courts of First Instance, and the Justices of the Peace. The Constitution also mandates a Court of Accounts, which examines the country's finances and reports to the Congress[9]. The Boletín Judicial (Judicial Bulletin) is the official reporter of the Supreme Court of Justice decisions.


The Legal System

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 Ley Orgánica de los Tribunales of 1845 (Organic Law of the Tribunals) a mixed judicial organization was applied by the Dominican Republic. The French Codes of 1815 (Códigos Franceses de la Restauración) were adopted as the codes of the Dominican Republic, in their original language, with the modifications set forth by the Constitution, and the Spanish court system established in the prior years[10].


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[11].  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 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 legal instruments denominated as Ordenes Ejecutivas (Executive Orders). A total of 821 Executive Orders were enacted, touching on virtually all aspects of governmental administration. One of the most significant of the Executive Orders was Executive Order No. 511, enacted July 1, 1920, on Real Property by which the Torrens system of land registration was adopted as the land title system of the Dominican Republic. It was modeled after the Philippines and Australian Torrens system, and remains in effect today[12].


Following the U. S. occupation, during the Trujillo Era (1930 -1961), several important laws were enacted: Labor Code (1951);  Health Code (1956); establishment of Courts for Minors (Ley No. 603 - 41 of 1941) along with family laws on child support, divorce and adoption; the establishment of the Litigious Administrative Jurisdiction (Ley No. 1494 - 47 of 1947); the law that modified the Executive Order No. 511 on Real Property (Ley No. 1542, October 11, 1947, de Registro de Tierras); 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 30 years, the basic laws underwent only minor modifications, despite the fact that the Dominican Republic was growing threefold in size.

Legal Reforms

Since 1991 the Dominican Republic has undergone major comprehensive judicial reforms. Initiatives directed towards justice and law reform took place within the context of government modernization efforts, seeking to adapt the legal and economic framework of the country for a gradual inclusion of the Dominican Republic in a global and regional economy, and to strengthen the democratic process[13].


Main objectives of the reform have been to expedite trials, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary, and protect constitutional rights. This has meant a profound transformation of the criminal justice system. Most notable are revisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, undertaken to incorporate oral procedures reflecting a move away from an inquisitorial to an accusatory or mixed system, and changes in the Penal Code, enacted to improve access to those populations previously underserved, such as women, the poor, and the minors.[14]


Comprehensive judicial reforms were pursued so as to modernize court administration, judicial budgets and court facilities, and to automate processes used for case and record management. Legal education programs were developed for judges and prosecutors through the Escuela Nacional de la Judicatura (National Judiciary School) and the Escuela Nacional del Ministerio Publico (National School for the Public Ministry).


ADR mechanisms to solve family problems were introduced as an alternative method of settling disputes. The Oficina Nacional de la Defensa Publica (Public Defenders Office) was established to provide legal assistance to those who could not afford to seek legal assistance.


Most recent legislature reforms have included updates of basic laws connected with sectors critical to economic and social development focusing on finance, investment and trade, environment, tax and customs, labor and social security[15].


There are several official institutions responsible for promoting and coordinating on-going judicial reforms in the Dominican Republic. Most active are the Comisionado de Apoyo a la Reforma y Modernizacion de la Justicia, CARMJ (Commissioner for the Modernization and Reform of Justice), the Comisión Nacional de Ejecución de la Reforma Procesal Penal, CONAEJ (National Commission for the Enforcement of the Criminal Procedure Reform), and the Comisión para la Ejecución de la Justicia de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes, CEJNNA (Commission for the Enforcement of the Justice for the Minors). CARMJ publishes Novedades de la Reforma a newsletter dedicated to judicial reform developments. The homepage of the CARMJ provides links to the other two institutions and is particularly useful to understand the fundamental changes brought forth by these reforms, especially in criminal and family matters.   

General Court System

The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court of Justice, Court of Appeals, Courts of First Instance, and the Justices of the Peace. At the time the Torrens property system was created, a separate system of Land Courts as a specialized jurisdiction within the legal framework was established. Other special courts include: the Courts for Minors, Labor Courts, and the Tax Court, better known as the Tribunal Contencioso Tributario.

Supreme Court of Justice

The Supreme Court of Justice is composed of 16 Magistrates elected by The National Council of the Magistrates, pursuant to Ley No. 169 of August 2, 1997. 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 (First Vice-President and Second Vice-President).


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.[16]


One of the most important functions of the Supreme Court of Justice is to hear appeals of Cassation (Recurso de Casación). It also hears ordinary appeals from matters arising in the Courts of Appeals, as well as questions on the constitutionality of laws.


The Supreme Court is the highest administrative authority of the Judicial Power. It designates the judges and administrative personnel of all courts, exercises the highest disciplinary authority over all members of the Judicial Power, and sets the salaries and remunerations for judges and administrative personnel.


The official reporter of Supreme Court of Justice decisions is the Boletín Judicial (Judicial Bulletin), which also is published electronically on the Supreme Court of Justice homepage under Boletines Judiciales.


Major provisions which govern the Supreme Court of Justice include the following:



Courts of Appeal

There are ten Courts of Appeals, one for each judicial district. Five judges sit on each of the courts. The Court of Appeals functions primarily as an appellate body and it hears appeals from decisions issued by Courts of First Instance. The Courts of Appeals have original jurisdiction in accusations against lower court judges, Government Attorneys (Procuradores Fiscales), and Provincial Governors. These courts may be divided into Criminal and Civil Chambers. Judgments of the Courts of Appeals from the National District have been published electronically since January 2001, on the Supreme Court of Justice homepage.

Courts of First Instance

The Courts of First Instance are divided into Criminal, and Civil, or Commercial Chambers. Depending on the size of the District, these courts may be subdivided into Salas (Halls). The National District has five Civil and Commercial Halls, and twelve Criminal Halls. The Chamber President distributes the cases among the different halls through a random allocation system.

Justices of the Peace

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, empower them to hear. There is at least one small court in each municipality, plus one located in the National District. Only one judge presides on each Peace Court.

Special Courts

Court of Minors

The Court of Minors addresses both civil and criminal matters, particularly issues pertaining to paternity, guardianship, visitation rights, alimony and adoption. There are seventeen Courts of First Instance for Minors and five Courts of Appeal, which are located in the cities of Santo Domingo, Santiago, San Pedro de Macorís, San Cristóbal and La Vega.

Labor Courts

The Labor Courts were created by the Labor Code to resolve conflicts between workers and employers. There are thirty four Labor Courts of First Instance and eleven Labor Courts of Appeal. For large Districts these courts can be subdivided into Salas (Halls). The Labor Court of First Instance for the National District has six halls.

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 two Tribunales Superiores de Tierras (High Land Courts), one in Santo Domingo and another in the city of Santiago, and twenty Land Courts of original jurisdictional. For each a sole judge decides all matters relating to real property.


The High Land Courts are primarily appellate courts and hear appeals from the Land Courts of original jurisdiction. Each High Land Court sits at least five judges, but Land Court proceedings are presided by a sole judge.  


The major laws regulating the Land Courts are: the Ley No.108-05 of 2005, de Registro Inmobiliario (Registry of Real Property) and its Regulations, the Reglamento General de Registros de Títulos (Rules for the Registry Offices), and the Reglamento de los Tribunales Superiores de Tierras y de Jurisdicción Original de la Jurisdicción Inmobiliaria (Rules for the Land Courts).

Tax Courts

The Tribunal Contencioso Tributario (Tax Court) is formed of five judges and has jurisdiction over appeals filed against decisions of the public administration regarding the application of taxes. The decisions of the Tribunal Contencioso Tributario have been reported since August 1996 on the Supreme Court of Justice homepage.


There are other specialized administrative courts or quasi-judicial bodies with jurisdiction to hear certain types of matters. These include the Central Electoral Board, which solves conflicts arising from elections, the Higher Administrative Court (Ley No. 1494 of 1947), the Police Court (Ley No. 285 of 1966, as amended) and the Military Court (Ley No. 3489 of 1953).

Public Ministry

The Public Ministry is the agency of the Executive Branch 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. 78-03 que crea el Estatuto del Ministerio Publico (The Public Ministry Statute).


The Public Ministry is composed of the following officials: The Attorney General of the Republic which represents the State before the Supreme Court of Justice; General Prosecutors before the Courts of Appeal; Public Prosecutors who appear before the Courts of First Instance; and Public Attorneys who appear before the ordinary Justice of the Peace Courts. The Attorneys for the State (Abogado del Estado) who are part of the Public Prosecutors Office, appear before the Higher Courts of Land and its attachments.


Major legislation enacted which governs the Public Ministry include the following:



Primary Sources of Law


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: a) it established the Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura[17], 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.[18]


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, the 1994 Constitution was again amended to provide mainly for the presidential re-election (Article 49). Articles 89 and 90 were enacted which addressed electoral matters.


The Constitution of the Dominican Republic, enacted July 25, 2002 (as found on three sites, below):


Civil Code

The dominant legal basis of the Civil Code of the Dominican Republic is the Código Civil de la Republica Dominicana, enacted by the Decree of April 16, 1884. With modifications, this original code is largely still in effect today. The fundamental reforms of the Civil Code were authorized by Decrees No. 104 of 1997 and No. 556 of 1999, still pending before the Dominican Congress.


Codigo Civil (Civil Code) (see also here)

Code of Civil Procedure

The Código de Procedimiento Civil (Code of Civil Procedure) was enacted by the Decree of April 16, 1884. With modifications, this Code is still largely in effect today. The fundamental reforms of the Code of Civil Procedure were authorized by Decrees No. 104 of 1997 and No. 556 of 1999, still pending before the Dominican Congress.


Codigo de Procedimiento Civil (Code of Civil Procedure) (see also here)

Commercial Code

The Código de Comercio (Comercial Code) was enacted by the Decree of June 5, 1884. With modifications, this Code is still largely in effect today. The fundamental reforms of the Commercial Code were authorized by Decree No. 104 of 1997 and No. 556 of 1999, still pending before the Dominican Congress.


Codigo de Comercio (Commercial Code) (see also here)

Criminal Code

The Código Penal de la Republica Dominicana (Criminal Code) was enacted by the Decree of August 20, 1884. The last major amendments to the Criminal Code were: Ley No. 24 -97 of January 27, 1997, on Family Violence; Ley No. 46-99, enacted in May 20, 1999, updating the types of penalties in criminal matters; and Ley No. 36-00, modifying articles 311 and 401 of the Criminal Code, expanding the jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace. The fundamental reforms of the Criminal Code authorized by Decrees No. 104 of 1997 and No. 556 of 1999 are still pending before the Dominican Congress.


Code of Criminal Procedure

The new Código Procesal Penal de la Republica Dominicana (Code of Criminal Procedure) was promulgated in July 19, 2002, by Ley No. 76-02, effective on September 27, 2004. It abrogates and replaces the 1894 Código de Procedimiento Criminal.


This recent Code reform effectively ended the French judicial tradition, originally adopted by Decree No. 58, July 4, 1845. This new Code constitutes a profound transformation of the criminal procedure system in the Dominican Republic. 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;  Trial Judges (Jueces de Instrucción); Judges of Criminal Courts (Jueces de la Ejecución de la Pena); and by Justices of the Peace.


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.


Trial Judges (Jueces de Instruction) 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 Jueces de Ejecución de la Pena (Judges of Criminal Court) 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.


Código de Procedimiento Criminal (Code of Criminal Procedure) and other Related Legislation:


Tax Code

The Codigo Tributario de la Republica Dominicana (Tax Code) enacted by Ley No. 11-92, in May 16, 1992, que aprueba el Código Tributario de la Republica Dominicana.


The Code covers matters regarding income tax, tax on the transfer of industrialized goods and services (ITBIS), and selective consumption tax. The Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (The Internal Tax Office) is the official 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 were introduced in the years 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006, modifying tax figures and institutions. The most recent amendments to the Tax Code are:


·       Ley No. 147-00 Reforma Tributaria, que modifica el Código Tributario (on Tax Reform)

·       Ley No. 12-01 modificando la Ley No 147-00

·       Ley No. 11-01 Ley Sobre Amnistía Fiscal (on Fiscal Amnesty)

·       Ley No. 3-04 que modifica el Impuesto Selectivo al Consumo (on Selective Consumption Tax)

·       Ley No. 288-04 Reforma Fiscal (on Fiscal Reform)

·       Ley No. 557-05 sobre Reforma Tributaria (on Tax Reform)

·       Ley No. 495-06 Rectificación Tributaria (on Tax Rectification)

·       Ley No. 227-06 que otorga personalidad jurídica y autonomía funcional, presupuestaria, administrativa, técnica y patrimonio propio a la Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (DGII) (on the autonomy of the Internal Tax Office) see also here.

Labor Code

The Codigo de Trabajo de la Republica Dominicana (Labor Code) 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 Secretariat of State for Labor is the state agency responsible for overseeing the compliance of these regulations. The Labor Courts have jurisdiction over labor and employment disputes.


Another major related reform was the revised 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 of all Dominican nationals and foreigners residing in the Dominican Republic against risks of aging, disability, unemployment, sickness, maternity and childbirth, and labor risks.


·       Labor Code (alternately on the ILO website)

·       Ley No. 87-01 que crea el Sistema Dominicano de Seguridad Social (Creating the Dominican Social Security System) (alternately here)

Code of the Minor

The Código para el Sistema de Protección de los Derechos Fundamentales de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes (Code of the Minor) enacted by Ley No. 136-03 of August 7, 2003. This Code abrogates the following laws: Ley No. 14-94, 1994, Código para la Protección de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes; Ley No. 603-41 sobre Tribunales de Menores, and Ley No. 985-1945 sobre Filiación de Hijos Naturales. This new 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.[19]


The text of the Code is available on the Supreme Court of Justice homepage along with several Resolutions regulating the jurisdiction.


A major piece of legislation related to minors and family matters is Ley No. 24-97, que introduce modificaciones al Código Penal, al Código de Procedimiento Criminal y al Código para la Protección de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes, better known as Ley de Violencia Intrafamiliar (Law on Family Violence), promulgated in January 27, 1997.

Monetary and Financial Code

The Ley Monetaria y Financiera (Monetary and Financial Code) enacted as the Ley No. 183-02, of November 21, 2002. This Code, also known as the Código Monetario y Financiero, 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 Ley General de Bancos No. 708-65, of April 14, 1965 (General Banking Law) and the Ley Organica del Banco Central No. 6,142 of December 29, 1962 (Organic Law of the Central Bank).


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



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


Other Laws

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, de Registro de Tierras (on Real Property). This Law has been in effect for 75 years.


An important reform took place in 2005 when Ley No. 108-05 de Registro Immobiliario (Registry of Real Property), 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 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 the following:



Intellectual Property Laws

The Ley No. 20-00 de Propiedad Industrial, (on Industrial Property) enacted on May 8, 2000, derogates and replaces Ley No.4994 of April 26, 1911 on Patents and Inventions, and Ley 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 Oficina Nacional de Propiedad Industrial, ONAPI (National Industrial Property Office). Presidential Decree No. 599-01 provides for the regulation of Ley No. 20-00.


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


·       Ley No. 20-00 de Propiedad Industrial (on Industrial Property) (alternately here)

·       Ley No. 65-00 de Derechos de Autor (Copyright Law)


Telecommunications Laws

The Ley General de Telecomunicaciones (General Telecommunications Law) Ley No. 153-98, enacted on May 27, 1998, regulates the installation, maintenance and operation of communications, telecommunications and satellite transmissions, and also regulates the provision of commercial services and equipment. This law derogates Ley No. 118 of 1996 on Telecommunications. The regulatory body of the sector is the Instituto Dominicano de Telecomunicaciones, INDOTEL, (Dominican Institute for Telecommunications)



One other recent related piece of legislation is:


·       Ley No. 126-02, Ley de Comercio Electrónico, Documentos y Firmas Digitales (E-Commerce, Electronic Documents and Digital Signatures) (English and Spanish)


Foreign Investment

The Ley de inversion extranjera (Foreign Investment Law) was enacted by Ley No. 16-95, November 20, 1995 and its regulation, the Reglamento de Aplicacion 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 Centro de Exportación e Inversion de la Republica Dominicana, CEI-R (The Center for Exports and Investment of the Dominican Republic)


·       Ley No. 16-95 sobre Inversión Extranjera y Reglamento 214-04 (alternately here)


Environmental Laws

The Ley General de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Environmental and Natural Resources Law), Ley No. 64-00, was promulgated on August 18, 2000. With Ley No. 202-04, Ley Sectorial de Areas Protegidas (Sectoral Law of Protected Areas), these two omnibus legislations are the most significant environmental laws of the Dominican Republic. They regulate the improvement and preservation of the environment, and delimit regions within the country to be protected. The Secretaria de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Secretariat of State for Environment and Natural Resources) is the State agency responsible for the protection of the environment and development of natural resources.


Ley No. 64-00, (also here) Ley General de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, and Ley No. 202-04 (also here) Sectorial de Áreas Protegidas.


Public Health

The Ley General de Salud (General Health Law), Ley No. 42, 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 Código de Salud (Health Code). A National Health Commission was created to promote overall modernization of the health sector. The Secretariat for Public Health and Social Welfare is the agency in charge of health services and is responsible for overseeing compliance with the Law.


·       Ley No. 42-01, Ley General de Salud (General Health Law) (alternately here)

·       Ley No12-06, sobre Salud Mental (on Mental Health)

Law Reports

The Gaceta Oficial[20] 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, the entire Gaceta Oficial is not accessible electronically, however, the Presidential Decrees have been published electronically, since August 16, 2004, on the Presidency of the Republic homepage.


Compilation of Laws

A major compilation of Dominican Republic laws was undertaken by Emmanuel Esquea Guerrero and Raymundo Amaro Guzman in 1982, and published under the title Coleccion de Leyes, Decretos y Resoluciones Emanadas de los Poderes Legislativo y Ejecutivo de la Republica Dominicana (Santo Domingo: Oficina Nacional de Administración y Personal, 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 separate from the official Gaceta Oficial publication. 


Another effort was undertaken by William C. Headrick, Compendio de Legislación y Jurisprudencia Dominicana: Indice de la Legislacion 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 Decada 1970-1979 (Santo Domingo: 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 Juridico Dominicano: Jurisprudencia de la Suprema Corte de Justicia durante el Periodo 1970-1998 e Indice de la Legislación Vigente en la Republica Dominicana (2 ed. ampliada, Taller, 2000). This latter publication is available electronically.

Case Law Reports and Digests

The Boletín Judicial de la Suprema Corte de Justicia[21], is the official source of reported court opinions. This Bulletin is published by the Supreme Court of Justice and is also accessible electronically starting with Bulletin No. 1022, January 1996, at the Supreme Court of Justice homepage under Boletines Judiciales:


Case Law Digests

The most current case law digests were compiled by Manuel Berges Chupani and Almanzor Gonzalez Canahuate. A list of the main titles are presented here.


Treaties and International Agreements

The International treaties for which the Dominican Republic is a signatory, are regulated by Article 3 of the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, which provides that: “The Dominican Republic recognizes and applies the norms of general and American International Law to the extent that its government authorities have adopted them.” International treaties which have been approved by the National Congress, duly promulgated and adopted are accorded precedence over procedural laws and have the same authority as the Constitution. The treatment of violations of such treaties should be the same as the treatment for violations of the Constitution[22].


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

·       Suprema Corte de Justicia, under Convenios Internacionales. 

·       Secretaria de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores (SEREX) – click under Tratados, Acuerdos.


SEREX maintains a database of International Agreements effective in the Dominican Republic. It includes the name of the legal instrument, type of document, and the date of signature and its entry into force. It also includes, in electronic format, the most important compilations of Agreements and Conventions ratified by the Dominican Republic.


Also see Centro de Exportación e Inversión de la Republica Dominicana, CEI-RD – under Acuerdos y Programas / Acuerdos Comerciales y Programas Preferenciales; and also under Acuerdos para Promocion y Proteccion de las Inversiones.


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 the United States (DR-CAFTA) (signed August 5, 2004), CARICOM (signed August, 1998), and a trade agreement with Panama (signed June 19, 2006). The CEI-RD homepage also has the texts of the different Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) signed by the Dominican Republic with Argentina, Chile, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, and France.


Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (Funglode)[23] an NGO – under Tratados.


Funglode provides free access to the electronic text of the book, Tratados y Acuerdos Internacionales de la Republica Dominicana, 1844 – 1998 , edited by Aida Montero (Funglode, 2005) 14 v. It contains a compilation of International Treaties and Agreements signed by the Dominican Republic from 1844 to 1998, organized by topics.


The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) maintain sites containing information on bilateral investment treaties and trade agreements in effect in the Dominican Republic.  



Secondary Sources

Reference Sources

Following are a selection of Dominican reference sources useful for legal research in the Dominican Republic.

Frank Moya Pons, Marisol Floren Romero, Bibliografía del Derecho Dominicano, 1844- 1998 (Imprenta Amigo del Hogar 1999) 2 v. This two volume set contains a comprehensive bibliography of monographs and journal titles, and also an index of the periodical legal literature of the Dominican Republic from 1844 to 1998. It has not been updated since 1999.

Wenceslao Vega y Américo Moreta Castillo, Historia del Poder Judicial Dominicano (Suprema Corte de Justicia, 2005) p. 624. A well documented historic research of the Judiciary in the Dominican Republic from 1844 to 2004.


Wenceslao Vega, Historia del Derecho Dominicano (Nueva Edición Actualizada hasta 2002, 2003). p. 471. This treatise is one of the most complete recounts of the history of law in the Dominican Republic, since the colonial times to present. It contains an extensive bibliography and references to key documents for the history of Dominican law and legal institutions.


Wenceslao Vega, Los Documentos Básicos de la Historia Dominicana (Editora Taller, 1994) p. 391. This book is an annotated compilation of the major historic treaties of the Dominican Republic, starting with the Capitulaciones of Santa Fe of 1492, to the Acta de Reconciliación Dominicana, and the Acta Institucional both of 1965, which ended the Civil War of 1965.


Doing Business in the Dominican Republic (Pellerano & Herrera 2006) p.144.


Legal Journals

Estudios Jurídicos, v. 1 no. 1 – (1967)- . Santo Domingo:  Ediciones Capeldom, 1967- Latest issue 12(1): January-December, 2003.


Gaceta Judicial, ano 1, no. 1 (Febrero 1997) -  Santo Domingo: Editora Judicial y Editorial AA, 1997 -  Latest issue No. 241, December, 2006.


Revista de Ciencias Jurídicas no. 1 (Octubre / Diciembre 1977-)  Santiago, R.D. : Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, Departamento de Ciencias Jurídicas,  1977 to 2002. The last number published was the September – December, 2002 issue. A Supplement to this journal was published under the title, Teoría y Practica del Derecho, v. 1. , no. 1- Septiembre – Diciembre, 2004.  Santo Domingo: PUCMM, RSTA, 2004 – Only one issue of the supplement was published.


Revista de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas, ano. 1 no. 1  (Agosto – diciembre, 1990. Santo Domingo: Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña, 1990 – 1992. Published irregularly.


Legal Databases

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


Info-Compu - This fee-based database indexes the law of the Dominican Republic from 1844 to 2001. It provides for the full text of the laws passed between 1990 to 2001; the digest of decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice from 1908 to 2001; and the full text of the cases of the Supreme Court of Justice published in the Judicial Bulletins from 1997 to 2001.  


Infojuris - This database was developed by the Centro de Información Juridica HHB, S.A. an institution affiliated with Pellerano & Herrera Law Firm. It is the most comprehensive electronic database of legal materials in the Dominican Republic. It covers all statutes, laws, decrees, resolutions, regulations, decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice published in the Judicial Bulletin in full text, from 1844 to present. It also indexes the legal literature of monographs and journal articles published in the Dominican Republic.  This database is not open to the public.


Legal Database - This free of charge database is developed by the 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: the Civil Code, Code of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure Code, and Commercial Code.


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 court decisions, international treaties, agreements and conventions signed by the Dominican Republic as well as the regulations set in force by the office.


One strategy for pursuing legal research in the Dominican Republic is to combine an understanding of the major reforms occurring within a specific sector, contained in secondary sources such as legal guides and newsletter published by major law firms in the country, and to identify the State agency related to the specific sector for primary sources.


The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) and the Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (DGII) websites contain many more primary sources than the strictly related to their functions or mission.


The following is a list of government offices providing access to primary legal sources: 


·       Banco Central de La República Dominicana (Banks and Banking)

·       Centro de Exportación e Inversión de la República Dominicana (Investment and Trade)

·       Comisionado de Apoyo a la Reforma y Modernización de la Justicia (Judicial Reform)

·       Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Social (Social Security)

·       Dirección General de Impuestos Internos (DGII) (Taxation)

·       Instituto Dominicano de las Telecomunicaciones (INDOTEL) (Telecommunications)

·       Junta Central Electoral (Electoral Laws)

·       Presidencia de la Republica (Decrees and Regulations)

·       Procuraduría General de La República (Public Ministry)

·       Secretaría de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Environment and Natural Resources)

·       Secretaría de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores (International Agreements)

·       Secretaría de Estado de Trabajo (Labor and Employment)

·       Superintendencia de Bancos (Finance and Banking)

·       Superintendencia de Electricidad (Energy)

·       Superintendencia de Salud y Riesgos Laborales (SISARIL) (Labor and Health)


Legal Bookstores

There are two main bookstores located in Santo Domingo which specialize in Dominican legal materials. Librería Jurídica Virtual and Librería y Papelería La Filantrópica.  Although Libreria Juridica Virtual has a URL, this link does not work regularly. Libreria Juridica Virtual has a printed catalogue. However, the Libreria y Papeleria La Filantropica does not have a complete catalogue, making it difficult to learn about new publications.



Law Schools

Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD)

The Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) is a public university. It supports the Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas (Faculty of Juridical and Political Sciences), which offers a first law degree (Licenciatura en Derecho) and postgraduate education in Law and International Relations. It also has a joint Doctoral Program in Law in with the Universidad del País Vasco (Spain). The library has no online public access to its resources.


Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM)

The Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) is a private Catholic university which offers a first degree in law (Licenciatura en Derecho). The University has two campuses, one in the city of Santo Domingo, Recinto Santo Tomas de Aquino, and another in the city of Santiago, Recinto Santiago. The University has two Law Schools, one on each of its campuses. Public access to the library catalogs is available online.


Universidad APEC

The Universidad APEC is a private university which offers a first degree in law (Licenciatura en Derecho). The University provides access to the library, but the online catalog can not be accessed off-site.


Universidad Católica de Santo Domingo (UCSD)

The Universidad Católica de Santo Domingo (UCSD), a private Catholic university has a Law School (Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas) which offers first and second degrees in Law (Licenciatura and Doctor en Derecho). The library has no webpage and no online access to its resources.


Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE)

The Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE), a private university, has a Law School (Escuela de Derecho) which offers a first degree in law (Licenciatura en Derecho). The library has no online access to its catalog.


Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU)

The Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU), a private university, has a School of Law (Escuela de Derecho) which offers a first degree in law (Licenciatura en Derecho). The Revista de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas was published by the School however it ceased publication in 1992. Although the library has a web base catalog, it could not be accessed off-site.


Law Firms

Some law firms in the Dominican Republic serve as important sources for legal research; they provide in-depth analysis and discussions on legal developments in the Dominican Republic via printed or electronic publications accessible on their homepages, often translated into different languages. Two major law firms are:


Pellerano & Herrera, Attorneys at Law, located in Santo Domingo, publishes legal guides and executive summaries on topics such as foreign investment, intellectual property, tourism, and telecommunications in English, French and Italian. Some of their publications are:  Doing Business in the Dominican Republic (2006), Tourism in the Dominican Republic - a Legal Guide (2004);  Intellectual Property Law Legal Guide (1999), Legal Guide to Telecommunications in the Dominican Republic (2001). See more on the main homepage of the firm under publications.


Headrick - Rizik - Alvarez & Fernandez, a law firm in Santo Domingo, publishes books, articles and newsletters on legal reforms and the legal system of the Dominican Republic, in English and Spanish. Some of their most recent publications are:  New Industrial Property Law of The Dominican Republic (2000); New Copyright Law of The Dominican Republic (2000); Principales Aspectos de la Nueva Ley Monetaria y Financiera (2003). See the law firm website under publications.


[1] I am very much indebted to Prof. Matthew Downs for his invaluable comments, suggestions and revisions to this article.

[2] Wenceslao 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 Básicos supra note 2, at 110.  

[5] Salvador V. Delgado, The Legal System supra note 3, at 140.11 

[6] Constitución de la  Republica Dominicana  Art.  49.

[7] Id., Art 55 (6)

[8] Id., Art. 37 (10, 12, 14)

[9] Id., Art. 78 to 81

[10] Wenceslao Vega y Américo Moreta Castillo, Historia del Poder Judicial Dominicano 196 (Suprema Corte de Justicia 2005). See also Wenceslao Vega B., Historia del Derecho Dominicano 298 (4 ed., Amigo del Hogar 2004).

[11] Wenceslao Vega B., Historia del Derecho Dominicano supra note 10, at 302.

[12] Id., 351

[13] See, Justice Delayed: Judicial Reform in Latin America (Edmundo Jarquin & Fernando Carrillo ed.,  Inter American Development Bank 1998)

[14] See Maria Dakolias, The Judicial Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean: Elements of Reform (World Bank 1996).

[15] Doing Business in the Dominican Republic 11 (2006).

[16] Constitución de la Republica Dominicana  Art. 67 (1)

[17] Vega y Moreta, Historia del Poder Judicial, supra note 10, at 458 “modeled after the French Conseil Superieur de la Magistrature.”

[18] Constitución de la Republica Dominicana Art. 63, 64 and 67.

[19] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, 69 to 76 (1999)

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

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

[22] Inter American Commission on Human Rights, supra note 19, at 77 to 80

[23] Fundación Global  Democracia y Desarrollo (Funglode), the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) is a Non Profit Organization established to promote collaboration  between organizations in the United States and the Dominican Republic, to study and foster research, in areas critical for economic, social and democratic development in the Dominican Republic and the Region [English].