DESCRIPTION OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM OF NICARAGUA
The Judicial Branch’s primary function is to oversee and decide all of the nation’s trials along with the execution of all judicial sentences.
The Constitution states that the justices and judges in their judicial activity are independent and must obey only to the Constitution and the law; they are governed, among others, by the principles of equality, publicity and right to defence.
The Organic Law of the Judicial Branch (Ley orgánica del poder judicial) and its reforms is the specific law regulating this State power. It was enacted in July 7, 1998 and published in the official gazette Nº 137 of July 23, 1998.
The Organic Law of the Judicial Branch establishes a two-tier system not allowing more than two opportunities for judicial review. The action of cassation is decided by the Supreme Court who has the power to modify or revoke a sentence and even dictate an entirely new sentence if the case calls for it.
The Nicaraguan legal system is formed by: local judges, district judges, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Justice.
Local judges exercise their duty in the municipalities. A local judge has a specific competence over a matter: civil, labor, family or criminal, except in small municipalities where just one judge could be competent for all the matters mentioned before.
District judges exercise their duty in the departments and autonomous regions. They judge cases in civil, labor, family or criminal matters. However, it is possible that just one judge could be competent for all the matters mentioned before. To distinguish which case will be judged by whom (local or district judge) is used the criterion of the monetary amount of the lawsuit.
The Courts of Appeals review the appeals of the sentences dictated by the district judges. They are formed by no less than five justices. They also have exclusive jurisdiction over some matters.
The Supreme Court of Justice is formed by sixteen justices elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years. It is the highest court in the Republic. It is divided in four chambers: civil, criminal, constitutional and contentious-administrative. The decision of some matters, including the constitutionality of a law or decree, requires decision from the plenary of the court.
Public Prosecutor’s Office
It is an independent institution with organic, administrative and functional autonomy in charge of the prosecution of public offences and the representation of the victim through the criminal process. The public Prosecutor is appointed by the National Assembly for a term of five years.The public prosecutor’s office is governed by its Organic Law (Ley Orgánica del Ministerio Público) of May 2, 2000, published in the official gazette Nº 196 of October 17, 2000.
Attorney General’s Office
Unlike the public prosecutor’s office, this institution only has functional autonomy. Its function is to represent the State and to defend its rights and interests and act as a legal advisor. The Attorney General is appointed by the President (no specific term exists, given that this authority has rank of Ministry of State). The attorney general’s office is governed by its Organic Law (Ley Orgánica de la Procuraduría General de la Republica) of December 4, 2001, published in the official gazette Nº 244 of December 24, 2001.