The legal system in the Republic of Panama is based on written Codes and Laws, contrary to the Common Law system, although much value and attention is granted by the Courts to previous decisions and case law. The administration of Justice is free of charges to the public who should only cover lawyer fees and expenses. Nevertheless plaintiffs should cover fees of expert witnesses, arrests or attachments of assets and other related expenses which depending on the matter may result costly.
Courts are ranked according to nature, importance and value of the claims they are competent to take. Although named as “civil courts” all these courts decide civil and commercial claims. There are specialized Courts as the Maritime Courts which only decide claims related to the maritime business, and the Courts of Free Competency and Consumer Affairs, which also decide Intellectual Property Matters like oppositions to trademarks registrations and cancellations.
Lower Municipal Civil Courts take claims from US$250.00 up to US$5,000.00, while Civil Circuit Courts take claims from US$5,000.00 without a limit. Superior Courts are over Circuits Courts and on top is the Supreme Court of Justice. A claim initiated in a Civil Court may go in appeal to the Superior Court and up to the Supreme Court if the value of the claim is at least US$25,000.00, save in case of claims related to divorce, nullity of marriage, civil status of individuals, and opposition to petitions of titles on real estates, as in all these cases the amount claimed is not a consideration to appeal before the Supreme Court.
To file a claim or appear as defendant it is necessary to grant power of attorney to a local lawyer, although in cases of urgency a lawyer may appear placing a guaranty deposit in Court which would be released if the corresponding power of attorney is filed within the next two months extendible up to one more month.
Before filing claims aimed to collect money or indemnities it is always most convenient to secure the results of proceedings by the arrest or attachment of goods to the potential defendant. To this end a deposit must be placed in Court which amount depends on whether it is a Maritime or Civil Claim. These deposits to be recovered at the end of proceedings save when the plaintiff did not have a real claim.
All documents to be filed in local courts as power of attorneys, prove on the existence of the plaintiff, as well as any document coming from outside Panama, must come legalized by Apostille, or by the closest Panamanian Consulate.
We hope that the experience and capacity of our firm in this field may serve your interests.