RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PUERTO RICO 1996
(a) Examination requirement
All applicants seeking admission to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico must pass a bar examination to be prepared and administered by a Board of Bar Examiners appointed by this Court.
(b) Board of Bar Examiners — Rules
The Rules of the Board of Bar Examiners currently in force regulate the composition of the Board of Bar Examiners; the appointment, requirements, and attributes of its members, its organization and operation; the requirements and conditions applicants must meet in order to take the bar examination; the nature of the examinations, the subjects to be covered, and the preparation, administration, and correction of the examinations.
(c) Committee on Character, and oath
All applicants seeking admission to the practice of law who pass the bar examinations must appear before the Committee on Character of Applicants for Admission to the Bar. Once the applicant meets the requirements established by the Committee and approved by this Court, and after receiving a certificate of good character from said Committee, the applicant must take the pertinent oath before the Supreme Court en banc, or before any of its divisions or of its justices.
After taking the oath, the applicant must inform to the office of the Clerk his or her street and mailing address. Also, in keeping with Rule 9(j), any subsequent address changes must be informed to the Clerk of the Court.
This Committee will also examine any matter submitted by the Court concerning an attorney’s readmission to the legal profession.
(d) Personal records of attorneys
(1) Except as provided below, the personal records of the attorneys are in the character of public documents and may be available, by previous written request, to persons with a legitimate interest in the same. The following documents, which are part of the attorneys’ personal records, must be kept apart in a sealed envelope, and must not be available for examination except by express authorization of the Court:
(a) the Informative Statement of Applicant (Form 51 (j));
(b) any amendment to the Informative Statement of Applicant (Form 52(J));
(c) the Transcript of Credits;
(d) the Applicant’s Personal Information Codification Sheet (Form 193(J));
(e) the Score Report; and any other specific document which the applicant is asked to furnish for purposes of evaluating his or her reputation or physical or mental capacity.
(2) With regard to the attorneys’ personal records kept in the Office of the Clerk of the Court, but which have not yet been placed in a sealed envelope, the officers in charge of their custody must apply the following rules to all applications for examination of said personal records. Before giving the record to the interested person, the officers will remove the mentioned documents and will place them in an envelope. The officers will immediately draft and sign a brief note stating the action taken.
(3) The name and address of the person who requests a personal record for examination must be entered in the personal record. The personal record to be examined will always be delivered without the sealed envelope, which will be temporarily retained by the officer in whose custody it is. Once the record is examined and returned, the sealed envelope will be placed in the record, which shall be put back in the corresponding record file.
Under no circumstances, except by express order of the Court, may the documents contained in the sealed envelope be shown.
(e) Admission by courtesy
Any person admitted to practice law in a state or territory of the United States of America or in the District of Columbia may be authorized by this Court, as a matter of courtesy, to practice law in Puerto Rico in special cases.
The petition must be endorsed by an attorney admitted to practice law by this Court, who will attest to the petitioner’s capacity to practice law in the pertinent case. The petition must be accompanied by a certificate issued by the highest court of the state in which the petitioner is admitted to practice law, attesting to his or her admission and good standing at the time of issuance. Both the petitioner and the attorney who endorses the petition must state that the petitioner has a good command of Spanish. Otherwise, the authorization issued by this Court must require that the petitioner practice law in the company of an attorney from the Puerto Rican bar who has a good command of both Spanish and English.
(f) Practice by law students
Any person who pursues studies leading to the degree of juris doctor in one of the law schools accredited by the Council on Higher Education and by this Court may be allowed to practice law before the Court of First Instance, the Circuit Court of Appeals, and the administrative bodies of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico if the following requirements and conditions are met:
(1) The student has completed and met at least two thirds (2/3) of the juris doctor requirements established by the law school in which the student is pursuing studies.
(2) The student is participating in a clinical program for law students sponsored and run by the law school in which the student is pursuing studies.
(3) The student must have an authorization signed by the dean of the law school in which he or she pursues studies, attesting to the fact that said student meets the minimum requirements established by this rule and is a person of good moral character. Said authorization will expire when he or she ceases to be a student of the law school that issued the authorization, or when it is revoked by the dean of the law school.
(4) The student must state under oath in the authorization that he or she meets the requirements established by this Rule and that he or she agrees to abide by the conditions established in the same and by the canons of ethics that govern the conduct of attorneys in Puerto Rico.
(5) The student must carry out said practice under the direct and immediate supervision of an attorney authorized by this Court to practice law, designated in accordance with the clinical program approved by the law school to which the student belongs. Said attorney shall sign the authorization, consenting to be the student’s supervisor and assuming responsibility for the student’s good conduct and behavior.
(6) The student must file in every case in which he or she appears before a court of justice or an administrative body of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a written motion that must be made a part of the record and that must be notified to all the parties to said case, setting forth the express consent of the party on whose behalf the student is appearing. The participation of the student must be approved by the court or by the administrative body in keeping with the conditions they may impose.
(7) The student must offer his or her services free of charge and as part of his or her training.
(a) Any person admitted by this Court to practice law, and who has also passed a Notarial Law examination prepared and administered by the Board of Bar Examiners, may be admitted to the notarial practice. The Notarial Law examination requirement must not apply to any person admitted to the practice of law on or before July 1, 1983. Once the candidate has passed the examination, he or she must file with the Office of the Clerk of the Court the pertinent petition, along with a bond in duplicate, in favor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, for the sum required by law. Once the Court accepts the bond and the petitioner is admitted to the notarial practice, he or she must take the corresponding oath before the Clerk of the Court. The notary must then register his or her signature, mark, seal, and flourish in the Office of the Clerk of this Court and in the Department of State, and must inform his or her residential address and location of his or her notarial office to the corresponding part of the Court of First Instance and to the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection. Every month, no later than the tenth calendar day of the month following the month reported, the notary must forward an informative index of all the deeds and affidavits authenticated by him or her, in keeping with section 12 of the Notarial Law of Puerto Rico, Act No. 75 of July 2, 1987. The notaries must notify any changes in the home or office address to the Clerk of the Supreme Court and to the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection.
(b) When the bond is posted by a surety company, the Commissioner of Insurance of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico must certify its sufficiency. When a notary furnishes a mortgage bond, it must be accompanied with a certificate issued by the Secretary of the Treasury of Puerto Rico stating the appraisal value of the mortgaged property, and with a certificate issued by the corresponding Registrar of Property with regard to the liens on said property.
(c) The notaries must strictly comply, either by personal delivery or certified mail, with the statutory provisions on certifications and notices involving wills and powers of attorney executed before them. In cases involving the protocolization of a power of attorney or a will executed outside of Puerto Rico, the notary must also set forth the date and place of execution of the protocolized will or power of attorney, the name of the attorney in fact and of the principal, or of the testator or testatrix, as the case may be, the name of the notary before whom the protocolized instrument was executed, and the name of the officer who authenticated the signature of said notary. In the event a notary fails to make the corresponding certification or give notice within the statutory term, he or she must make it as soon as possible, accompanying the pertinent certificate or notice, under his or her signature and notarial attestation, stating in detail the facts and circumstances that gave rise to the delay, and whether the delay has harmed any person or has given rise to lawsuits or controversies. If the delay was due to the acts of third persons, the notary will accompany his or her explanation of the facts with sworn statements and other documents attesting to such acts, as well as any other evidence that the notary may wish to submit to justify the delay. The Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection shall see to it, in all cases, that the notary sends all the information required, and any other additional information that the Director may deem convenient. The Director may also accept the explanation offered, determine whether it is sufficiently justified, and warm the notary to strictly comply with his or her obligations in the future. When appropriate, the Director of Protocols Inspection may bring the matter to the attention of the Court for the corresponding disciplinary action, following the same procedure established in Rule 13(nn). The Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection shall have the same duties with regard to the notarial indexes.
(d) Every notary must send, no later than the following January, and in the forms supplied by the Clerk to such effect, an annual statistical report of all the notarial documents authenticated by him or her throughout the year.
(a) This rule establishes the disciplinary proceedings applicable to attorneys and notaries.
(b) Any written and verified complaint received by the Court or by any of the justices of the Court regarding the behavior of an attorney or a notary will be duly entered by the Clerk in the corresponding special record kept to such ends. Unverified complaints or complaints lacking a sufficient specification of the facts on which they are grounded may not be recorded or entered in the record.
(c) The Clerk will send a copy of the complaint to the attorney or the notary, as the case may be, who will have ten (10) days to express himself or herself on the matter. The Clerk may extend this term when the circumstances thus warrant it. The attorney or the notary must serve on the complainant by certified mail, return receipt requested, a copy of the answer filed with the Court, setting forth in the same the fact of such service.
(d) When the attorney or the notary has filed his or her answer, or the term to answer has run out, the Clerk will send the complaint and the answer, or the complaint with an indication that it has not been answered, as the case may be, to the Solicitor General or to the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection, so that, within a period of thirty (30) days, they may express their opinion and make the pertinent recommendation.
(e) After the Court receives the recommendation of the Solicitor General or of the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection, it may order the complaint dismissed, order a broader inquiry into the complaint, or submit the matter to one of the Justices for determination of cause. Said Justice will inform his or her opinion and recommendation to the full Court. The Court may impose the corresponding sanctions without need for further proceedings when the facts warranting such sanctions arise from the answer itself. After completing the above procedure, the Court may order the Solicitor General to file the pertinent complaint.
(f) Once the complaint is filed, the Clerk will enter it in the corresponding book of entries, and will immediately order the attorney or notary involved to answer the complaint within a period of fifteen (15) days after the date of service. The Marshal shall serve notice of the complaint and the order. If personal service cannot be carried out, the Marshal will thus inform the Court, which may order that service be carried out by leaving the documents in a properly addressed envelope at respondent’s office during working hours. If service through these means is not possible, the Clerk will serve notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, at the respondent’s address as it appears in the Court’s roll of attorneys. Such service shall suffice for purposes of these rules, even if the letter is returned.
(g) The Solicitor General and the Puerto Rico Bar Association may file motu proprio complaints against any attorney or notary. Once filed, the complaint will be treated as if it had been filed by order of the Court.
(h) A hearing shall be held to receive evidence on the complaint. The Court may order the hearing held before it or, at its discretion, it may appoint a Special Master to receive the evidence and submit a report with findings of fact.
The Special Master who is not a regular employee of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, its agencies or public corporations, shall receive a per diem allowance of one hundred dollars ($100.00) for each day of hearings or for each day said Special Master engages in official activities as such.
(i) The Special Master will schedule the hearing or hearings that may be necessary to receive the evidence, and the Clerk will issue the summonses and other related orders as if they had been ordered by the Court. The Special Master may order a prehearing conference.
(j) at the hearing, the respondent is entitled to confront the witnesses against him or her, may cross-examine the witnesses, examine the documentary or material evidence presented against him or her, and may also present witnesses and documentary and material evidence in his or her favor. The respondent is entitled to receive a copy of any affidavit made at any stage of investigation of the complaint, even if the same was not presented in evidence. The rules of discovery shall not be applied unless the Court provides otherwise because it deems it indispensable under the circumstances of the case.
(k) The Special Master shall decide the admissibility arguments in accordance with the law. At the close of the evidence, the Special Master will file a report with his or her findings of fact, which must be exclusively grounded on the evidence presented and admitted. Any conflict over the evidence shall be resolved on the basis of the credibility it deserves. The report must be presented to the Court, with a copy served on the parties, within a period of thirty (30) days after the close of the evidence. All the documentary and material evidence presented must be sent with the report. Evidence presented, but not admitted, must be clearly identified as such, setting forth the reasons for its nonadmission.
(l) Each party will have a term of twenty (20) days, to run simultaneously, counting from the date of service of the report, to offer their comments or objections, and their recommendations on the action to be taken by the Court.
(m) At the end of said term, the Court will decide according to law.
(n) All hearings held, either before the Court or before the Special Master, must be recorded. The tape recorder operator must certify the correction of any transcript made. A transcript of the recording will be made only in the following cases: (1) when ordered by the Court or by the Special Master, because they deem that the transcript is indispensable for drawing the findings of fact; or (2) when any of the parties objects to the findings of fact of the Special Master, and the Court deems that the transcript is indispensable for settling the objections. If making a recording is not possible, stenographic notes of the hearing must be taken, which will be transcribed only in keeping with these guidelines. If for any reason the transcript of the oral evidence is unduly delayed, the Court may require the Special Master to draw his or her findings of fact without the transcript.
(nn)[*] Adverse reports on a notary filed by the Director of Protocols Inspection will be governed, insofar as it is pertinent, by the provisions of Rule 81 of the Notarial Regulations of Puerto Rico of July 14, 1995.
(o) The Clerk shall notify a copy of all the decisions adopted by the Court to the respondent attorney or notary, and to the party that lodged the complaint. Any decision of the Court imposing sanctions shall also be notified to the Office of Courts Administration, to the Secretary of Justice, and to the Puerto Rico Bar Association. If the sanction should in any way affect the notary’s capacity to act as such, the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection shall also be notified.
(p) If the Court orders an indefinite or a temporary suspension, or the permanent separation of the attorney from the notarial practice (either directly or indirectly by ordering the attorney separated from the practice of law), the Clerk will immediately issue an order directing the Marshal to seize as soon as possible the notary’s protocols and registries of affidavits, and to deliver them to the Director of the Office of Protocols Inspection or to any protocols inspector, in order to comply with the provisions of sections 64 and 66 of the Notarial Law of Puerto Rico, Act No. 75 of July 2, 1987. This seizure of this material will be without prejudice that, once the temporary separation ends, the notary may move the Court to have said protocols and registries of affidavits returned to him or her.
(q) In cases in which a complaint has been lodged against an attorney or a notary, the reports on the investigation and the documents of the Solicitor General, of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, or of any other entities or persons, that are filed in the Office of the Clerk, or brought for the consideration of the Chief Justice or the Court, may not be available for inspection by the public until the matter has been finally resolved.
(r) Once the answer to a formal complaint has been filed in the Office of the Clerk, both documents, as well as those that may be subsequently added to the record during the proceedings, will be open to public inspection.
(s) If after being suspended from the legal and/or the notarial practice, the attorney and/or the notary wishes to be reinstated, he or she must file a motion for reinstatement with the Court, inasmuch as reinstatement is not automatic unless it is thus expressly ruled by the Court.
(a) Mental incapacity, defined as a mental or emotional condition of such nature that renders an attorney unfit to represent his or her clients competently and adequately, or that precludes him or her from maintaining the standard of professional conduct required from every attorney, shall constitute grounds for the indefinite suspension of the incapacitated attorney.
(b) When an attorney is declared incompetent by a court or is committed to a mental institution because of proved incapacity, the Court will suspend him or her from the practice of law for as long as the illness persists.
(c) When in the course of a Rule 14 disciplinary proceeding, there are doubts about the mental capacity of the respondent attorney, the Court, motu proprio or on motion of the Solicitor General or of the complainant, will appoint a Special Master—if none has already been appointed—to receive evidence on the attorney’s mental incapacity, as such term is defined in section (a) of this Rule. In these cases, a panel of three (3) psychiatrists will be appointed to examine the attorney and to offer their expert testimony before the Special Master. The panel of psychiatrists will be selected as follows: one will be appointed by the Special Master, another by the Solicitor General of Puerto Rico, and the third one by the respondent attorney. The appointments must be made within a period of ten (10) days after the date of service of the Court ruling ordering this proceeding. If the Solicitor General or the respondent fails to make the corresponding designation within this term, the Special Master will do so in their stead. Once the panel of psychiatrists is designated, the Special Master will fix the date for a hearing that must be held within thirty (30) days following the designation of the psychiatrists. The psychiatrists will examine the respondent during that time and they will submit a report to the Special Master, who will serve a copy of said report on the Solicitor General and on respondent. At the hearing before the Special Master, the Solicitor General and the respondent, through counsel, may raise objections to the psychiatrists’ reports and will be given an opportunity to examine and cross-examine the psychiatrists. At said hearing before the Special Master, the Solicitor and the respondent may present and cross-examine other witnesses, and documentary evidence may be introduced and examined. The discovery rules shall not apply. The Special Master shall decide admissibility issues in accordance with the law, but the communication between the respondent and the panel of psychiatrists may not be considered privileged. The report of the Special Master must be submitted to the Court—with copies served on the parties—within a period of thirty (30) days after the hearing and the close of the evidence. Together with the report, the Special Master shall submit all the documentary and material evidence presented, including the psychiatrists’ reports. Evidence presented but not admitted must be clearly identified as such, and the Special Master must indicate why it was not admitted.
The parties may decide to waive the hearing and submit the matter to the Special Master on the basis of the psychiatrists’ reports. In that case, objections to said reports may be made within ten (10) days following the date on which they are submitted to the Special Master. The Special Master must submit his or her report to the Court within thirty (30) days after the psychiatrists’ reports or the objections to said reports are submitted, as the case may be.
(d) when there are doubts about the mental capacity of an attorney in view of his conduct before the General Court of Justice, the Court may, motu proprio, order the proceedings before the Special Master, as mentioned in section (c) above, even when no action has been brought before the consideration of the Court.
(e) If during the section (c) proceedings the respondent attorney refuses to submit to a medical examination by the designated psychiatrists, such refusal shall be considered prima facie evidence of his or her mental incapacity, and his or her suspension from the practice of law may be decreed as a preventive measure.
(f) If under the Rule 14 disciplinary proceedings the respondent attorney raises the defense of insanity, the Court will appoint a Special Master to receive evidence pursuant to the section (c) proceeding. In that case, the Solicitor General will try to establish respondent’s sanity in order to continue the proceedings under the charges that gave rise to the original complaint. If after the Special Master’s report the Court determines that respondent is not mentally incapacitated, as such term is defined in section (a) of this Rule, the original complaint proceedings must continue and the respondent will be required to pay the costs involved in the psychiatric evaluation.
(g) After examining the Special Master’s report in cases under sections (c), (d), and (f) of this Rule, the Court shall decide in accordance with the law. If the Court finds that respondent is mentally incapacitated, as defined in section (a) of this Rule, it will indefinitely suspend the attorney from the practice of law. This action shall not be considered a disbarment, but a special social protection measure. When an attorney is suspended for mental incapacity, the Court may appoint one or more attorneys to inspect the suspended attorney’s files and to take such immediate steps as may be necessary to protect the rights of his or her clients in pending cases. The attorneys appointed to this task will submit reports to the Court on their commission along with their recommendations. The General Court of Justice will give the affected clients enough time to retain new counsel. If the Court determines that the mental incapacity defined in section (a) of this Rule does not exist, and that it is a section (c) proceeding, the matter will be dismissed; if the proceedings were conducted under sections (c) or (f) of this Rule, the proceedings shall continue under the original complaint.
(h) An attorney suspended under the provisions of this rule may file a motion for reinstatement with the Court. This motion must be filed thirty (30) days after the incapacity has ceased. When this motion is filed, the Court will appoint a Special Master, and a panel of three (3) psychiatrists will be designated pursuant to section (c) of this Rule. The psychiatrists will examine the respondent and submit a report to the Special Master, who, at his or her discretion, may order a hearing with the intervention of the Solicitor General, unless the Court, on respondent’s motion or motu proprio, orders a hearing. The Special Master will submit a final report to the Court, which will proceed to decide the matter. If a reinstatement hearing is held before the Special Master, the relationship between respondent and the psychiatrists who examined him or her during the suspension will not enjoy privileged communication benefits for purposes of the questioning that may take place at the hearing.
In cases under section (b) of this Rule, a judicial decision to the effect that the attorney is not mentally incapacitated will suffice to move the Court to lift the suspension.
(i) The fees for the professional services rendered under this Rule shall be fixed by the Court and charged to the Court’s “Professional and Consulting Services” budget item.
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[*] [Translator’s note: The letter “ñ” used in the Spanish original has been replaced here with “nn.”]