RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT of puerto rico 1996





PART III- original jurisdiction

PART IV- appeal






PART I     -     THE COURT


Rule 1       -     Name


            These rules are adopted pursuant to the authority invested in this Court by Article V, Section 4 of the Constitu­tion of the Common­wealth of Puerto Rico to adopt rules for the conduct of its business.


              These rules shall be known as “Rules of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.”


Rule 2       -   Seal


            The official seal of the Supreme Court shall have a circular purple field bearing the following symbols:


            A gold-colored segment of the sun rays overhead, with six rays shining toward the center, representing Divine Po­wer, the Majesty of the Law, Wisdom, Love, Mercy, and Honesty.  Superimposed on the sun is a hand holding the scales of Equality and Justice, in blue, the color of truth. Between the scales, a white lamb bearing a flag with a cross and banner, lies on a red book.


            A golden band encircles the seal bearing the following inscription:  “ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO DE PUERTO RICO, TRIBUNAL GENERAL DE JUSTICIA.” The words “TRIBUNAL SUPREMO” appear in gold below the book.


Rule 3       -   Definitions


            In these Rules, the term “Court” includes any of its divisions, when this is not incompatible with the purposes of the Rule.


            The term “decision” includes any judgment, resolution, order, ruling, or any other action of the Court, of any of its divisions, of any of its justices, in the pertinent cases, or of any other court or agency.  The singular includes the plural and the plural includes the singular, except when this is incompatible with the spirit and purpose of the provision.


Rule 4       -   Operation of the Court


(a)       En banc


            The Court en banc will entertain all civil and criminal actions, and will intervene in matters concerning the disci­pline and rehabilitation of judges, lawyers, and notaries.

            The decisions of the Court en banc shall be adopted by a majority of the participating justices, but no law shall be declared unconstitutional except by a majority of the total number of justices who make up the Court.


            Issuance of a writ by the Court en banc shall require at least half of the votes of the participating justices.


            Issuance and denial of all discretionary matters, and of other matters decided by the Court, must be considered directly by the Court en banc.


(b)      Operation by divisions


            The Court may sit in one or more divisions to entertain any matter, except those matters for which the Constitution requires a minimum number of Justices.  No less than three (3) justices may sit in each division.  The Justice sitting in each division who is senior in commission shall preside over the same.  When the Chief Justice sits in one of the divisions, he will preside over the same.


            The Court shall designate the justices who will sit in these divisions, but no justice may be excluded against his or her will.  If necessary, to avoid exclusions, the members of the division or divisions will be rotated.


            The justices sitting in a division shall take part in the consideration and determination of the matters submitted to said division.  The votes of at least half of the participating justices are required for the issuance of a writ.  The decisions of a division shall be identified as originating in that division, and shall state the names of the justices that make up the division.


            The Chief Justice must sit in any division to break a tie.  When for any reason the Chief Justice is unable to participate to break a tie, he will designate, according to seniority, another justice who is not a member of the tied-up division, to take his place.  The Chief Justice may, at his discre­tion, join any division for the adjudica­tion of any matter.


            When a member of a division is unable to participate in the determination of any matter, the Chief Justice will desig­nate another justice to complete said division.  If the justice replaced is the chief judge of said division, the justice who is senior in commission among the members of the division will sit as chief judge for the consideration of said matter.


            Motions for reconsideration [rehearing] will be decided by the division that rendered the decision, except when the composition of the division has been altered, in which case the motion may be considered by any divi­sion, or by the Court en banc.




(c)       Oral argument


            The Court or any of its divisions may hear oral argument on any matter whenever it deems it necessary.  The parties may request oral argument and the Court, at its discretion, may grant or deny the same.  When the parties’ counsel wish to argue the case or the incident involved, they must so request by separate grounded motion or by stipula­tion, within five (5) days after the filing of appellee’s brief.  If a request for oral argument is not made within said term, the case shall be deemed submitted on the briefs.


            The hearings for oral argument granted or ordered by the Court shall be set by the Clerk of the Court for the third Monday of the following month and for as many successive days as may be necessary, unless the Chief Justice or the chief judge of the division that set the hearing changes the setting.


(d)      Term of Court


            The Term of the Court commences every year on the first working day of October and ends on the last working day of June, unless otherwise decided by the Court.


            During the summer recess, the Court may, by agreement of the full Court or by order of the Chief Justice, sit in one or more of its divisions.  In that case, the Court must determine the number of divisions and of the justices who will constitute the same, which number of Justices must be no less than three (3).       


            When no divisions are established during the summer recess, the Chief Justice or, in his absence, the Court, will designate one of its members to sit as acting judge in vacation.  This judge will exercise, in the name of the Court, all the powers inherent to acting judges on vacation under the law and these rules.


            During the summer recess the chief judge of the division, if any, will assume the duties assigned by this Rule to the Chief Justice, unless the Chief Justice or the Acting Chief Justice is discharging the duties of his or her office.


(e)       Disqualification


            (1) Any Justice of this Court who receives an oral or written communication outside the regular judicial channe­ls, which communication is intended to transmit informa­tion to the Justice, or to influence him or her with regard to any matter before this Court, shall inform this to the Court en banc and decide whether or not to disqualify himself or herself.  The above is without prejudice to the other causes for disqualification established by law, by the canons of judicial ethics, and by judicial custom and tradi­tion, and, also, without prejudice to the sanctions the Court may impose on any attorney who encourages or permits such communications.

           (2) When a motion for recusal or an application for disqualification of a justice is filed with the Court, the Clerk of the Court shall send the motion for recusal or the application for disqualifica­tion to the Justice concerned, who will decide on the matter without intervention of the Court en banc.


            When entertaining a motion for recusal, the Justices of the Court may take into consideration the grounds for disqual­ification established by law, by the canons of judicial ethics, and by judicial tradition.


            Any justice may disqualify himself or herself motu proprio without stating the reasons therefor.


Rule 5       -   Adjudication on the merits


(a) The cases for adjudication on the merits will be assigned to the justices by the Chief Justice or, in his absence, by the justice who is senior in commission, within five (5) days following the date on which they were submitted to the Court.


            (b) The justices who take part in the decision of a case shall state their position within twenty (20) days after a position paper is circulated as a judgment, or within thirty (30) days after it is circulated as an opinion.  Any justice who wishes to express his or her view in writing shall notify his or her intent to the other justices within the indicated period and circulate his or her paper within the following thirty (30) days.  The Court may extend this period for just cause.  When the Justice has stated his or her position in writing, the other justices shall express their position within five (5) days after said written expression circulates, when the original position paper circulated as a judgment, or within ten (10) days when the original position paper circulated as an opinion.


            When a justice does not express himself or herself or does not draw his or her papers within the periods established in the above paragraph, the decision may be certified, stating that said justice took no part in the decision, or stating his or her position, if any.  No opinion may be certified that does not circulate among all the justices at least ten (10) days before it is certified, unless a majority decides otherwise, or the urgent nature of the matter requires that the term, not the circulation, be dispensed with.


            The above paragraph does not apply to position papers circulated during the last fifteen (15) days before the Term of the Court ends, in which case the prescribed periods will start to run on the first working day of the next Term.  The period to return or respond to position papers circul­ated during the first month of the Court term will be of forty-five (45) days.  By agreement of the majority of the Court, position papers may be certified during the summer recess, in keeping with the above-prescribed periods.


            When a position paper circulates and all the justices agree with the same, the author will certify it as the decision of the Court.  When the majority of the justices agree with the circulated position paper, the author, at least within a period of twenty-four (24) hours, must inform of his or her intention to certify it as the decision of the Court, also stating the circulation date, the names of the justices who disqualified themselves or who took no part in the decision, and the concurring and dissenting justices.  All positions in a case or matter shall be simultaneously certified, except in the circumstances described in the paragraph below.  When a position paper is certified, the author will inform the other justices in writing.


            The Justices may reserve their right to issue a position paper only after a decision of the Court has been certified when, by the nature of the matter involved, the Court majority has decided to shorten the terms prescribed herein.  In these circumstances, the justice who has reserved such right must circulate his or her position paper within a period of ten (10) days after notice of the reservation has been given.  The other justices will have an additional term of five (5) days to state their position on said paper.  After these terms have simultaneously expired, all position papers or views will be certified, and from then on, no other position paper or view on the case will be certified.


            Position papers include judgments, opinions, separate or explanatory votes or opinions, and any other written expression of a justice.


Rule 6       -   Sessions: the Court en banc and in divi­sions


            (a) As a general rule, the full Court will hold regular sessions every Friday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.


            As a general rule, the justices will submit the matters they want to address at each meeting at least three (3) days before the date of the meeting, except for those matters that affect the court operations or that involve changes to any rules adopted by the Court, which will be notified ten (10) days before the meeting.


            By agreement of a majority of the Justices of the Court, any matter may be considered in the regular session of the Court en banc.


            The Court will continue to convene on successive days until all the matters submitted by the justices are considered.


              (b) The Chief Justice, or a majority of the Justices, may convene the full Court to a special session, and an agenda will be circulated specifying the matters to be addressed at said meeting.  Before the meeting, all the available information on the matters to be considered will be furnished to the justices.


            If, during the summer recess of the Court, a matter or case should arise warranting a special session of the full Court, one such special session may be convened by the Chief Justice, by a majority of the justices of the Court, or by a majority of the Justices that make up the summer division transacting business at the moment the matter arises.


            The Court will continue to convene on successive days until all the matters included in the agenda for the special session have been considered.


            (c)  The most recently appointed justice shall keep a record of the decisions taken by the full Court, which he or she will circulate within the three (3) days following the meeting.


(d)   The Court divisions will meet on a weekly basis.


Rule 7       -   Quorum


            Four (4) justices constitute a quorum when the Court is sitting en banc.  Quorum for a division of three (3) justices will be the total number of justices that compose that division.


Rule 8       -   Chief Justice


            The Chief Justice will preside over the Court, and shall have the powers and obligations assigned by the Constitution, by the law, and by these rules.


            If by reason of absence, illness, or for any other reason, the Chief Justice is unable to perform the duties of his office or if such office is vacant, the associate justice next in precedence who is able to act will substitute for the Chief Justice and exercise all his powers and duties as Acting Chief Jus­tice until the Chief Justice resumes his work, or until the vacancy is filled.


Rule 9       -   Clerk


(a) The Clerk of the Court, with the help of the staff under his or her supervision, is responsible for the good management of the Clerk’s office.  The Office of the Clerk will remain open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but the Court shall always be considered open for the purpose of issuing any order.  The Clerk is authorized to extend the office hours of all or any of his or her employees when the business of the Court may thus require.


            (b) The Clerk may not take the oath of office before posting bond as required by law.


              (c) It shall be the duty of the Clerk to receive and file all records, copies, and other papers and documents filed for such ends, to number and safekeep all records, and to perform all other functions belonging to that office.


            (d) The Clerk must see to it that all the papers filed with the Court comply with the provisions of these rules.  When any paper fails to comply with said provisions, the Clerk will note the fact that it was filed, but will return it, retaining only one copy and setting forth the deficiencies found, which must be corrected within the jurisdictional or strictly mandatory term, as the case may be.  This provi­sion does not release the attorney from his or her responsi­bility to perfect the appeal within the jurisdic­tional or strictly mandatory term, as the case may be.


            (e) The Clerk shall issue certified copies of the records and public documents in his or her custody upon request and upon payment of the fees prescribed by law.  In the same manner, the Clerk shall issue certified copies of the translations made of said documents, as provided by section 2 of Act No. 87 of May 31, 1972, which lists the duties of the Bureau of Translations.


            (f) The Clerk shall keep on file all the decisions of the Court and any other document entrusted to him or her. The Clerk shall notify the parties of any decision made by the Court, setting forth the date of entry and of the notice to the parties.


            (g) The Clerk shall be the keeper of the seal of the Court, and all documents signed by the Clerk in original or facsimile on which the seal of the Court has been affixed, shall be deemed to be authentic.


            (h) In any case in which a decision or judgment of the Court requires the issuance of an order to any person, the Clerk will prepare the corresponding order and issue it under his or her hand and the seal of the Court, ordering said person to comply with the order of the Court.  Also, where appropriate, the Clerk will issue an order directing the marshal to notify a certain person or persons of any decision of the Court.


            (i) The Clerk shall keep a docket of all the cases and matters filed in this Court, which must include a brief summary of the status of each case. The Clerk shall also keep separate dockets for: (1) matters of original juris­diction; (2) civil appeals from the Circuit Court of Appeals; (3) certiora­ri; (4) adminis­trative appeals; (5) certifications (6) filing of claims or complaints against attorneys, notaries, or judges; (7) miscellaneous briefs of whatever nature on matters unrelated to cases before the Court; (8) and any other appeal for which there is no docket. The clerk may keep auxiliary record books as prescribed above.


            (j) The Clerk will keep a roll of attorneys, containing, in chronological order based on the date of admission to the bar, the names of all attor­neys authorized to practice in this Court, the dates of their admission to the practice of law, and their mailing and home addresses.  The Clerk will also keep a roll of notaries with the names of the attorneys authorized to practice the notarial profession, their residence, and the location of their notarial offices.  The notaries must enter in said roll their signature, mark, seal, and flourish.  All attorneys must notify the Clerk of any change in the mailing or street address.  All notaries must notify any change in the location of their notarial offices.


            (k)   The Clerk will keep a record of attorneys who have been suspended or separated from the legal practice, and a similar record of those separated from the notarial practice.  Both records must indicate the date of suspen­sion or separation and the term of the same.


            (l) The Clerk must not permit that any court record or document in his or her custody be removed from the Court, except by order of the Court or of the Chief Justice; and, during the Court summer recess, by order of the chief judge of division, or of the acting judge, as the case may be, or by order of a majority of the members of the division.


            (m) The Clerk will send to the Office of Courts Administration, to the Central Investigations Panel, to the Secretary of Justice, to the Library of the Supreme Court, to the Office of the Reporter of Decisions, to the Puerto Rico Bar Association, and to the law schools libraries, a copy in Spanish of all the opinions and judgments rendered by the Court.


            (n) The Clerk shall stamp on all papers filed in his or her office the date and time on which they were filed.  To such ends a time stamp may be used.


            (nn)[*]     When the attorneys or the parties fail to comply with any of the provisions of these rules, the Clerk shall inform this fact to the Court for the appropriate action.


            (o)     The Clerk must notify the parties of the date the cases are submitted to the Supreme Court for adjudica­tion on the merits.


Rule 10     -   Marshal


            (a)  The Marshal, himself or herself, or through one of his or her deputies, shall be in charge of the security of the justices, of their closest relatives, and of the employees of the Court.


            (b)  The Marshal, or one of his or her deputies, must attend each Court session, or see to it that one of his or her deputies does.  The Marshal shall also be in charge of the maintenance and general inspection of the Court building, and of all the furniture and other property of the Court.


            (c)  The Marshal will deliver all writs, orders, communications, and notices issued by the Court or under the authority of the Court, and will make due return of such documents, or see to it that one or more deputy marshals do so under his or her supervision and responsibility.



            (d) The Marshal, without need of special orders to such effect, must maintain security and order in the Court premises.


            (e) When the justices take their seats on the bench, the Marshal will announce that the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico is in public session.  The Court will remain open from that time until the justices leave the bench, thus ending the session for the day, unless other­wise ordered.  In such case, the Marshal will make an announce­ment in that respect.


            (f)   The Marshal shall see to it that the Office of Courts Administration provides each justice with adequate means to keep in constant communication with the Court and with the other justices.


Rule 11     -   Library


            (a) The Head librarian of the Supreme Court shall be in charge of the administration of the Library of the Court and shall have custody of the Court’s bibliographical resources.


            (b)  The Library of the Supreme Court may be used by attorneys, by Government justice officials, and by any person who obtains permission from the Head librari­an.


            (c)  The library will be open during the Court working hours, and its operations shall be governed by the regulati­ons adopted by the Head librarian with the approval of the Court.  The bibliographical resources may not be removed from the Court premises, except by the justices of the Court or through a duly authorized loan within the Judicial Branch.


            (d)  The library schedule established above may be extended by order of the Chief Justice.


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[*] [Translator’s note:  The letter “ñ” used in the Spanish original has been replaced here with “nn.”]