AN INTRODUCTION TO PERUVIAN LAW:
Its Legal System and the Idiosyncrasies that comprise it
Sandro O. Monteblanco, Esq.
The Peruvian Judiciary is a branch of the government of Peru that interprets and applies the laws of Peru in order to ensure equal justice under law as well as providing a mechanism for dispute resolution. It is a hierarchical system of courts, with the Supreme Court of Peru sitting at the top. The second level is composed of 28 superior courts, each of which has jurisdiction over a specific judicial district that are in essence a representation of the 25 regions of Peru. The third level is made up of the 195 courts of Primary Courts (court of common pleas), each of which has jurisdiction over one specific province. The fourth and lowest level is composed of 1,838 Courts of Justice of the Peace, each with jurisdiction over one single district.
THE LEGAL SYSTEM OF PERU
The Government of Peru is decentralized and organized according to the principle of the separation of powers through the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary branches. While the separation of powers and hierarchical system of courts are theoretically effective, government and political corruption are present at ALL LEVELS AND AT ALL TIMES, evidence of which is this country’s last five Presidents who are either in prison or have international warrants for their arrest and extradition back to Peru all for corruption.
The Peruvian Judiciary branch provides a mechanism for dispute resolution and is responsible for applying the laws of Peru accordingly. The judicial system is organized through a series of courts operating with jurisdiction over specific areas, all overseen by the Supreme Court of Peru. While the judiciary system is the principal medium through which laws are applied and punishments dictated, a 2019 survey of citizens found that the judiciary system is considered to be among the most corrupt institutions in Peru. This creates a complex and hazardous situation for both visitors and businesses, especially those unfamiliar with the law, customs, and government.
The take-home message for doing business, exerting a defense or seeking justice in Peru is simple: have Knowledgeable International Counsel able to help you avoid risks and secure your position no matter what side of the legal spectrum you are on. If you are involved in a legal dispute in Peru, contact us right away to build your case using experienced and knowledgeable counsel well versed in the Peruvian legal system.
The Peruvian Legal System has come up with various Legal Codes, each of which focuses on specific objectives that address some general and some more complex aspects of the law. To give you an idea of the depth of some traditional areas of the law, here are a few of the codes:
- Constitution of 1993
- Constitutional Proceedings Code
- Civil Code
- Civil Proceedings Code
- Civil Procedures Code
- Child & Adolescent Code
- Commercial Code
- General Corporate Law
- Criminal Code
- Criminal Proceedings Code
- Criminal Procedures Code
- New Criminal Procedures Code
CORRUPTION IN THE PEOPLE
The Peruvian judicial system is tainted by corruption and official pressure, according to the US Department of State 2018. Similarly, Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2019 points out that the judiciary is one of the most corrupt public institutions in Peru. According to the report, more than eight out of ten households surveyed consider the system “corrupt” or “extremely corrupt”, while a little more than three out of ten report having paid a bribe in 2018. Also, in the Proetica Tenth National Survey on Corruption 2017, surveyed citizens consider the judiciary to be among the most corrupt institutions in Peru. User surveys indicate that unofficial payments affect both the speed and the final outcome of judicial processes.
CORRUPTION IN THE BUSINESS
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2019, surveyed business executives have a low-degree of confidence in the Peruvian legal system. Business executives do not consider the legal framework for settling disputes and for challenging regulation to be efficient. Companies should be aware that the corrupt and inefficient judiciary poses a hindrance for settling commercial disputes. This is supported by the US Department of State’s report, which finds that contracts are often difficult to enforce because the judicial system is very slow to hear cases and to issue decisions. Outcomes have been difficult to predict and enforce, and judicial corruption is the rule rather than the exception. According to the report, foreign companies have encountered problems directly resulting from corruption in the judicial sector. Foreign investors often resort to arbitration to resolve business disputes to avoid years of judicial procedures. additionally, in what would seem to be a Tarantino-like ploy, nationwide, Peruvian judiciary goes on a month-long vacation in Februarynwhich means no courts which only contributes to the chaos already in place.
Here are my two cents: Does the above mean no one should do business in Peru? Not at all. Let us keep in mind that during the most depressed financial times that afflicted the US and Europe alike, Peru remained steadfast and even grew when most of the giants were collapsing around it. This section is meant to inform you from a personal standpoint, from boots on the ground, from the perspective of a professional from the Pacific Northwest who faced this beast 20 years ago and still has to shape-shift to adapt to the everchanging conditions of this country.
As an attorney that practices law in Peru but who was raised and educated in the United States and Europe, I am faced with the reality of what happens behind the closed doors of the courthouse, outcomes offered by clerks to the highest bidder. It is a repulsive sight to many of us who strive to uphold a legal system based on the respect for the basic principles of the law. In Peru, Lady Justice is not a young blindfolded woman holding up scales; here she’s a bitter prostitute standing on a corner waiting for the next trick. While my perception may seem bleak, it is only through the presentation of a realistic outlook that I can convey the same message I stated paragraphs above; if you are going to do business in Peru, make sure you Get And Keep Counsel At All Times!.