Introduction to the mexican legal system

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Legal Studies Research Paper Series Research Paper No. 08-007 January 2008


Jorge A. Vargas

This paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:

INTRODUCTION TO MEXICO’S LEGAL SYSTEM By Jorge A. Vargas Professor of Law University of San Diego School ofLaw E-mail: Ph.: (619) 260-4816 Web site: Fax: (619) 260-7493

Table of Contents: Introduction I. Mexico as a Country 1.1 Mexico’s Physical Setting 1.2 Population 1.3 Form of Government A. The Legislative Power B. The Executive Power C. The Judicial Power Sources of the Law in Mexico 2.1 The Federal Constitution of 1917 A. Jurisprudencia 2.2 InternationalTreaties and Conventions to which Mexico is a party 2.3 Federal Statutes A. Statutes that regulate constitutional precepts



Professor of Law, University of San D iego School of Law (since 1983). LL.B., summa cum laude, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM ), Mexico City; LL.M. and J.S.D. (Candidate), Yale Law School. Professor Vargas was a guest lecturer on Mexican law at New YorkUniversity School of Law, International Global Program in 1999, and a Visiting Professor at Stanford Law School in 1994. He is the founder and Director of the Mexico-United States Law Institute, University of San Diego 1983-1987. Professor Vargas was awarded the academic distinction of University Professor 2002-2003 by the University of San Diego. The author wishes to express his personal thanksto Kevin C. Cole, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, for his support in the preparation of this work. The author verifies the accuracy of the Spanish language cites and all English translations. He maintains a web site on Mexican law located at


B. C. 2.4

Other federal statutes Statutes’ regulations

2.5 2.6 2.7 III.

CodesA. Codification Efforts in Mexico a) Civil Code b) Code of Civil Procedure c) Penal Code d) Code of Penal Procedure e) Code of Commerce Doctrine Custom General Principles of Law

Court System 3.1 Federal Courts and Articles 94 and 104 of the Federal Constitution A. Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation B. Circuit Collegiate Courts C. Unitary Circuit Courts D. District Courts E. Council of theFederal Judiciary F. Federal Jury of Citizens G. Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation 3.2 State Courts A. Civil Courts B. Family Courts C. Criminal Courts 3.3 Labor Courts 3.4 Other Courts A. Administrative Courts B. Agrarian Courts C. Electoral Courts D. Fiscal Courts E. Military Courts The “Americanization” of Mexican Law Amparo 5.1 5.2 Definitions Historical Background 2IV. V.

5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 VI. VII.

Controversies governed by Amparo Expansion of the Scope of Amparo Proceedings Several Types of Amparo Juicio de Amparo Judgments International Influence in Latin America

Best Mexican Law Web Sites Conclusions

Appendix One Appendix Two Appendix Three


INTRODUCTION The application of Mexican law in cases decided by American courts during thelast two decades –as the applicable foreign law– has been impressive. In a quick survey of cases involving foreign law resolved by California courts in 2004-2005, a total of 100 cases were governed by Mexican law, 57 by Canadian law, 29 by Japanese law, 28 by German law and 12 by Chinese law.1 The impetus that has triggered the growing presence of the law of this civil law neighboring country inthe largest nation with an Anglo-Saxon legal tradition may be associated with these three factors: (i) the geographical contiguity of Mexico to the United States; (ii) the increasing number of a Mexican and a Mexican-American populations in California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, Arizona and New Mexico, having become today’s largest ethnic minority in our country; and (iii) the immense...
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