Law of Puerto Rico
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2010)|
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2010)|
Puerto Rico is the only current U.S. possession whose legal system operates primarily in a language other than American English: namely, Spanish. However, because the U.S. federal government operates primarily in English, the result is that all Puerto Rican attorneys must be bilingual in both languages in order to litigate in English in U.S. federal courts and to litigate federal preemption issues in Puerto Rican courts.
Puerto Rico had about a million residents at the time it became part of the United States, who ferociously resisted conversion to English before the U.S. government finally gave up in the 1940s. By way of contrast, the Spanish-speaking settlers in the vast territories obtained from Mexico after the Mexican-American War were promptly swamped by English-speaking American settlers, which is why the state governments that emerged in those territories all primarily use English today.
Sources of law 
United States Code 
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Title 48 of the United States Code outlines the role of the United States Code to United States territories and insular areas such as Puerto Rico.
Leyes de Puerto Rico 
Many of the Laws of Puerto Rico (Leyes de Puerto Rico) are modeled on the Spanish Civil Code, which is part of the Law of Spain. After the U.S. government assumed control of Puerto Rico in 1901, it initiated legal reforms resulting in the adoption of codes of criminal law, criminal procedure, and civil procedure modeled after those then in effect in California. Although Puerto Rico has since followed the federal example of transferring criminal and civil procedure from statutory law to rules promulgated by the judiciary, several portions of its criminal law still reflect the influence of the California Penal Code.
Judicial system 
The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which is the only appellate court required by the Constitution. All other courts are created by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico.
As Puerto Rico is under United States sovereignty, there is also a Federal District Court for the island.
Economic impact 
As with the other U.S. civil law jurisdiction, Louisiana, Puerto Rico's stubborn refusal to switch to an English-based common law legal system has impaired its economic growth, so that many products and services available throughout the rest of the United States have never been introduced in Puerto Rico. Mainland businesses doing business with or in Puerto Rico must retain bilingual local Puerto Rican counsel to advise them about Puerto Rico law (which mainland executives find to be alien and peculiar), as if they were doing business in Mexico or any other foreign Latin American jurisdiction. Unlike the rest of Latin America, Puerto Rico does not enjoy certain benefits that offset such transactional costs, such as dramatically lower minimum wages or limited employee rights.
In contrast, many deals between businesses in most U.S. common law states can often be completed with the parties' respective counsel (even if based in different states), because the differences between the laws of most common law states can be mastered with a few hours of due diligence and are not as jarring as those between the common law and civil law systems.
See also 
- Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
- Puerto Rico Tax and Customs Laws
- Puerto Rico's Gag Law (Ley de la Mordaza)
- Puerto Rico Resources, Georgetown Law Library
- Laws of Puerto Rico, Lexis Nexis (Spanish)
- The Laws of Puerto Rico, and other downloads, Office of Legislative Services to the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly
- Guide to Law Online: U.S. Puerto Rico, Library of Congress