Collegiate Courts of Appeals: new appellate courts of the Federal Judicial Branch

This note explains the creation, integration, operation, and organization of the new Collegiate Courts of Appeals as courts of the Federal Judicial Branch.

I. Constitutional reform on judicial matters

            On March 11, 2021, the “Decree whereby several provisions of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States related to the Federal Judicial Branch are amended and supplemented” (“Decree”) was published in the Federal Official Gazette.

            Among others, the Decree amended Article 94 of the Constitution, the new text of which eliminates Circuit Plenums and Unitary Circuit Courts, respectively replacing these with Regional Plenums and Collegiate Courts of Appeals.  Additionally, Transitory Article Five of the Decree ordered the Federal Judiciary Council to adopt the necessary measures to transform the referenced bodies, while it mentions that there must be at least one Collegiate Court of Appeals for each state.

            With the creation of the Collegiate Courts of Appeals, by transforming the Unitary Circuit Courts, the intent of the body entitled to amend the Constitution was to, with a collegiate integration of three magistrates,[1] ensure greater agility, better quality, and greater certainty in their resolutions, since this will strengthen debate and the deliberative process, which will benefit the administration of justice; this, since by being fundamentally an appellate court, a collegiate resolution is expected to offer better perspectives and opinions that ensure a better administration of justice.

II.        Collegiate Courts of Appeals in Secondary Regulations

            As a result of the Decree, several secondary laws, mainly the Organic Law of the Federal Judicial Branch, the Law of the Judicial Career of the Federal Judicial Branch, the Amparo Law, and the Federal Code of Civil Procedure were amended.  References to Unitary Circuit Courts were amended in such laws to Collegiate Courts of Appeals, but without going deeper into their operation and organization.

            Then, in an extraordinary session dated October 13, 2002, the Plenum of the Federal Judiciary Council approved and issued “GENERAL RESOLUTION 24/2022, OF THE PLENUM OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY COUNCIL THAT REGULATES THE INTEGRATION, ORGANIZATION, AND OPERATION OF COLLEGIATE COURTS OF APPEALS” (“Resolution”).

            The Resolution sets forth the basis for the integration, organization, and operation of Collegiate Courts of Appeals.  Additionally, the Resolution authorizes the administrative departments of the Federal Judicial Branch (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, “CJF”) to perform the necessary action to implement these, specifying that it will enter into force for each of the Collegiate Courts of Appeals on the date that the Plenum of the Federal Judiciary Council provides, by issuing each of the general resolutions for the referenced courts to start operations.

III. Jurisdiction, integration, and operation of Collegiate Circuit Courts

1. Jurisdiction

            In accordance with Article 35 of the Organic Law of the Federal Judicial Branch, Collegiate Courts of Appeals will have jurisdiction over:

I. Amparo trials filed against acts of other collegiate courts of appeals that are not deemed final rulings not subject to appeal, under the terms of the Amparo Law, which regulates Articles 103 and 107 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States with respect to indirect amparo trials filed before district courts. In such cases, the collegiate court of appeals with jurisdiction will be that which is closest to the residence of that which issued the challenged act;

ii. Appeals on cases resolved in first instance by district courts;

iii. Remedies for denied appeal;

iv. Qualification of impediments, recusals, and challenges of collegiate appellate judges, and of district judges, except in amparo trials;

v. Disputes that arise among district judges subject to their jurisdiction, except in amparo trials, and

vi. Other cases commissioned to them by other laws, as applicable.

2. Integration

            Each Collegiate Court of Appeals will be composed of three judges, and the court clerks, officers, notifiers, and other personnel that the budget allows. In December of the year prior to the term of the president, or in the first session of the year of the Court, a president will be appointed, who will last in his commission for the entire calendar year for which he was chosen. The SIXTH Transitory Article of the Resolution seems to suggest that all Collegiate Courts of Appeals will be created during this year, by mentioning that the presidents chosen in such Courts “will also be president during the year 2023”.

3. Hearings

            In-person and videoconference hearings are recognized, as each case requires. The hearings that may be held before a Collegiate Court of Appeals are the following:

I. The hearings stating clarificatory arguments on grievances before the court as Court of Appeals, those of hearings in procedures of the former mixed-inquisitive criminal system, and those of appeals in criminal enforcement procedures, if applicable;

ii. Hearings for arguments in federal civil procedures;

iii. Constitutional or incidental hearings in indirect amparo trial; and

iv. Any other hearing in cases that are of the jurisdiction of the Court.

            All hearings of the cases that must be resolved on a collegiate basis[2] must have the participation of the three Judges of the Court, and if applicable, the parties or those that intervene in it that are in attendance. If, in accordance with the procedural law that governs each case, any request must be resolved or any decision must be adopted in the hearing, the relevant decision will be made unanimously or by a majority vote of the Judges, who may not abstain from voting unless they have a legal excuse or impediment. Also, if the procedural law governs the case subject matter of the hearing enables its resolution in a hearing, a ruling may be issued in the hearing.

4.   Public Sessions

            Prior to holding meetings, cases must be listed at least three days in advance, without having the publication of the list or of the session, and these will be resolved in their order, in accordance with Article 26 of the Organic Law of the Federal Judicial Branch. As is the case with hearings, in-person and videoconference hearings are recognized.

            Additionally, ordinary and extraordinary sessions are recognized: (i) Ordinary: those that are held on a weekly basis, in business days and hours, resolved by the Judges. If required for the analysis of the listed matters, non-business days may be enabled, upon prior resolution of the members of the Court; and (ii) Extraordinary: those that are called for discussion of matters deemed urgent, or that based on the times granted by the respective law, cannot not wait for an ordinary session to be resolved.

5.   Single-Person Resolutions

            The only matters that the Collegiate Court of Appeals may resolve on a single-person basis are amparo trials (including matters related to compliance, enforcement, and archiving of amparo trials; and incidental matters, or any other that arise during the processing thereof), and the appeals provided in Articles 284 and 303, Fifth Paragraph, of the National Code of Criminal Procedure.

6.   Special Rule for Processing an Amparo Trial before a Collegiate Court of Appeals

            If the Collegiate Court of Appeals receives an indirect amparo trial, the President of the court will assign it for the purpose that the investigating judge admits it, issues requirements, or dismisses it. Although the Resolution is unclear, we consider that due to the terms that govern amparo trial, the receipt and assignment of the indirect amparo trial will be performed immediately and without the need for a prior resolution.

IV.      What’s Next?

1. Implementation.            That the different departments of the CJF perform the necessary actions to harmonize the systems, infrastructure, and equipment required to perform their duties. Specifically: (i) Collegiate Courts of Appeals will be given the necessary computer equipment to record the sessions or hearings; (ii) the necessary changes will be made to the physical spaces that will host them and to the rooms for hearings of the Federal Criminal Justice Centers; and (iii) sufficient spaces will be enabled for the archive of each Unitary Circuit Court to be transferred to the Collegiate Court of Appeals that will follow-up on their cases.

2. Creation of each Court. The Executive Secretariat of Creation of New Bodies will submit to consideration of the Plenum of the Federal Judiciary Council the general resolutions of termination of duties of the Unitary Circuit Courts, of creation of Collegiate Courts of Appeals, or of any other necessary measure for their implementation.

3. Designation of Presidents.

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            This note is exclusively for information purposes.  We remain available to you for any question or comment in connection with the foregoing.

Federico Martens Alva

[email protected]

Luis Gerardo González Meyer

[email protected]

[1]              One of whom will be the president for one calendar year, except for those appointed in 2022, who will remain in their commission for the remainder of the year and throughout 2023.

[2]              Exceptions to the cases that must be resolved on a collegiate basis are: (i) Hearings in amparo trials and in appeals provided in Articles 284 and 303, Fifth Paragraph of the National Code of Criminal Procedure.