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Judicial Branch
In the Dominican Republic, the judicial administration is vested in the Supreme Court of Justice and in lower courts created by the Constitution and the laws, such as the Courts of Peace, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeals, specialized courts such as Lands Tribunals, Labor Courts, Traffic Violations Courts, Juvenile Courts, Military and Police Court, and the Superior Administrative Court. 

The Dominican judicial system is mainly based on the French judicial organization and the Napoleonic Code, although many dispositions such as juries for criminal matters, were not adopted. In fact, there are no juries in the Dominican courts and the judge has great authoritative power and issues the verdict. Evidence is largely committed to writing, and the final stage of the proceedings consists of the judge examining all the combined written material and then deciding whether or not the person is guilty of the accused.

The 1994 Constitution guarantees several basic legal rights to all citizens. These include the rights to due process, to public trial, and to habeas corpus protection. An accused person is also guaranteed protection against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. A written order from a competent judicial authority is required, if any person is to be detained more than 48 hours or if an individual's home or property is to be searched. 

The court system is broken down as follows: 

Justice of Peace Courts. Formed by one justice of peace, these courts handle minor cases. There is a Justice of Peace in each Circumscription. 

Courts of First Instance. These primarily have civil and criminal jurisdiction. Formed by one judge, these handle all the cases not expressly attributed by law to another court. There is a Court of First Instance in each Judicial District. These Courts are divided into a Criminal Chamber and a Civil and Business Chamber, which in turn, depending on the size of the District, may be sub-divided into various chambers with their own territorial jurisdiction. This is the case for the Court of First Instance of the National District (Santo Domingo), which is divided into five Civil and Business Chambers and ten Criminal Chambers, each having jurisdiction over a circumscription. Note that Courts of First Instance are not always divided into a criminal chamber and a civil and commercial chamber. In many judicial districts the Court of First Instance is presided by a judge who handles all cases: criminal, civil, commercial, labor, etc.

Judges of Instruction who have functions of committing magistrates. 

The Courts of Appeals. These are formed by five judges and review the judgments rendered by the Courts of First Instance, including the facts of the case. There is a Court of Appeals in each Department, each one comprising five Judicial Districts. These courts, depending on the size of the Department, may be divided into a Criminal Chamber and a Civil and Business Chamber. 

There are a series of specialized court for hearings in first instance of matters relative to judicial administration; property disputes and registration; traffic accidents; minors; and labor disputes. 

The Attorney General represents the government's case and oversees the system of government prosecutors. 

The Supreme Court of Justice enjoys administrative and budgetary autonomy. This high court is made up by 16 judges that were selected on 3 August 1997 by the Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura, a council made up of legislative and executive members and two members from the Supreme Court (its President or Chief Justice and another Justice). Current members are Jorge Subero Isa and Víctor José Castellanos. 

The Supreme Court judges are: Jorge Subero Isa, President of the Court; Rafael Luciano Pichardo, first vice president; Eglis Esmurdoc Castellanos, second vice president; Hugo Alvarez Valencia; Ana Rosa Bergés de Farray; Víctor José Castellanos; Edgar Hernández; Julio Ibarra Ríos; Juan Luperón Vásquez; Enilda Reyes; Dulce Rodríguez de Goris; Julio Aníbal Suárez; Margarita Tavares, Dario Fernandez Espinal, Jose Enrique Hernandez Machado and Pedro Romero Confesor.

The Supreme Court of Justice is limited in criminal cases to determining whether the formalities prescribed have been observed and whether the law on which a criminal judgment was based was correctly applied. The Supreme Court hears appeals for errors of law, appeals for unconstitutionality and ordinary appeals in matters arising in the court of appeals. 

The Supreme Court of Justice has original jurisdiction in accusations against certain high officials including the President, Vice President of the Republic, senators, deputies, ministers, deputy ministers, Dominican diplomats, Central Electoral Board (JCE), Chamber of Accounts, and the Attorney General of the Republic who is appointed by the Executive Branch. 
The Supreme Court exercises the highest disciplinary authority on all members of the Judicial Power and has general supervisory responsibilities over the courts. 
The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction in questions between the state and municipalities. 

For more information on the Judicial Branch, see the web site the Supreme Court of Justice has at
www.suprema.gov.do
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