Photograph: Civil Courts Entrance, Santiago de Chile Judicial Branch.

Following the Chilean government’s decision to revisit legislative discussion of the civil procedure reform and propose changes to the system currently used to appoint judges, the Justice Studies Center of the Americas (JSCA) shared its opinion of both bills as the agency responsible for promoting judicial modernization in the 34 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS).

“Chile needs to overhaul its civil justice system. The bill proposes making existing court procedures more efficient, but it does not necessarily extend to the type of disputes and people who need it the most, nor does it innovate in regard to the burden of proof or case management,” stated the international agency’s Executive Director, Jaime Arellano.

On Friday, April 16, the Chilean Ministry of Justice and Human Rights announced that the government would revisit the discussion of the bill for a new Civil Procedure Code in Congress. That process stalled in the Senate in 2014 when the second legislative stage was beginning.

The government explained that the reform would be accompanied by three other legal changes: a mediation bill on civil and commercial matters that would add a specialized unit to the Judicial Branch to provide the service to the entire community free of charge, a bill to reform the Court Organic Code, which designs the organic structure related to the reform, and a new system for appointing judges.


In regard to the latter bill, JSCA’s Executive Director stated that “it is moving in the right direction” and that decreasing the participation of the Supreme Court in the process would help to ensure internal judicial independence.

“We believe that progress should continue during the discussion of the bill in Congress on the design of the appointment system and greater internal judicial independence. This can be achieved by better balancing the commission’s membership, for example, by reducing the Supreme Court’s representation and making room to expand the representation of the legal sphere and regions beyond the capital,” Jaime Arellano stated.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the bill is meant to create a National Judicial Appointments Commission, an autonomous body that would oversee the proceedings and arrive at its decisions through collegiate, evidence-based resolutions. The mechanism also would end the Executive Branch’s discretion and unilateral authority in regard to appointing judges and other top-level officials.

“The idea is that the appointments system would be established in the new Constitution in order to give it stability. Regardless, it is very important for us to make progress on this change now at the legal level,” Arellano said.

JSCA’s Executive Director noted that the agency participated in a round table discussion organized by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights during the exchanges prior to the drafting of the bill.