TITLE VIII CONCERNING THE JUDICIARY BRANCH
CHAPTER 1 CONCERNING GENERAL PROVISIONSArticle 228
The administration of justice is a public function. Its decisions are independent. Its proceedings will be public and permanent with the exceptions established by law, and substantive law will prevail in them. Legal limits will be diligently observed and failure to apply them will be sanctioned. The functioning of the judiciary will be decentralized and autonomous.Article 229
The right of any person to have access to the administration of justice is guaranteed. The law will stipulate in which cases this may be done without the representation of counsel.Article 230
In their decisions, the judges are bound exclusively by the rule of law. Fairness, jurisprudence, and the general principles of law and doctrine are auxiliary criteria of judicial proceedings.Article 231
The judges of the Supreme Court of Justice and of the Council of State will be appointed by the appropriate body from lists drawn up by the Superior Council of the Judicature.Article 232
In order to be a judge of the Constitutional Court, of the Supreme Court of Justice, or of the Council of State, the following requirements must be met:
- To be Colombian by birth and a citizen in good standing.
- To be a lawyer.
- Not to have been condemned by a court sentence to imprisonment, except for political crimes or crimes of strict liability.
- To have filled, for 10 years, positions in the judicial branch or the Public Ministry, or to have exercised honorably for a like period the profession of lawyer or university professor in the legal disciplines in officially recognized institutions. Paragraph. In order to be a judge of these courts it is not necessary to be a public employee of the judicial ranking system.
The judges of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, and of the Council of State will be elected for a period of eight years. They cannot be reelected and will remain in office as long as they display good behavior, perform satisfactorily and have not reached the age of mandatory retirement.
CHAPTER 2 CONCERNING ORDINARY JURISDICTIONArticle 234
The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court of ordinary jurisdiction and will be composed of an uneven number of judges determined by law. The law will divide the Court into chambers, will stipulate to each of them the matters that it has to take cognizance of separately, and determine those matters which must be heard by the entire bench.Article 235
The following are powers of the Supreme Court of Justice:
- To adjudicate as a court of appeal.
- To try the President of the Republic or whoever replaces him and the senior officials covered by Article 174 for any punishable deed imputed to them, in accordance with Article 175, paragraphs Nos. 2 and 3.
- To investigate and try members of Congress.
- To try, following charges brought by the General Prosecutor, ministers of the Cabinet, the National Attorney General, the Ombudsman, or agents of the Public Ministry before the Court, before the Council of State, and before the tribunals; the directors of the administrative departments, the Comptroller General of the Republic, the ambassadors and chiefs of diplomatic or consular missions, the governors, the judges of tribunals, and the generals and admirals of the public force for punishable deeds with which they are charged.
- To take cognizance of all contentious issues of diplomatic personnel accredited the national government in cases involving international law.
- To draft its own bylaws.
- To enjoy other powers stipulated by law. Paragraph. When the officials mentioned above have ceased holding office, these provisions will apply only for punishable offenses related to the official functions that they used to exercise.
CHAPTER 3 CONCERNING THE CONTENTIOUS
ADMINISTRATIVE JURISDICTIONArticle 236
The Council of State will be composed of an uneven number of judges determined by law. The Council will be broken down into chambers and sections to separate its jurisdictional functions from the others assigned to it by the Constitution and the law. The law will stipulate the functions of each of the chambers and sections, the number of judges included in each, and their internal organization.Article 237
The powers of the Council of State are as follows:
- To exercise the functions of a supreme contentious administrative court in accordance with the rules stipulated by the law.
- To take cognizance of invalid decrees issued by the national government and held unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.
- To act as the supreme consultative body of the government in matters of administration, whose opinion must mandatory be heard in all cases determined by the Constitution and the laws. In cases of the transit of foreign troops across Colombia's national territory, or of the stationing or transit of foreign warships or aircraft in the waters or territory or airspace of the nation, the government must first seek the opinion of the Council of State.
- To prepare and present proposals amending the Constitution and other bills.
- To take cognizance of cases regarding the loss of the investiture of congressmen in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
- To make its own bylaws and exercise the other functions determined by the law.
The jurisdiction of the contentious administrative apparatus may temporarily be suspended for the causes and following the requirements established by law because of the effects of administrative measures that may be subject to challenge by the judiciary.
CHAPTER 4 CONCERNING THE CONSTITUTIONAL JURISDICTION
The Constitutional Court will be composed of an uneven number of members determined by law. The makeup of the court will take into account the need to select judges belonging to the various specialties of the law.
The judges of the Constitutional Court will be elected by the Senate of the Republic for single terms of eight years from lists presented to it by the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the Council of State. The judges of the Constitutional Court are not eligible for reelection.Article 240
Those who during the year previous to the election had exercised the functions of Cabinet minister or judges of the Supreme Court of Justice or of the Council of State are not eligible for election.Article 241
The safeguarding of the integrity and supremacy of the Constitutional Court according to the strict and precise terms of this article. For this purpose, it will fulfill the following functions:
- Decide on the petitions of unconstitutionality brought by citizens against acts amending the Constitution, no matter what their origin, exclusively for errors of procedure in their form.
- Decide, prior to a popular vote, on the constitutionality of the call for a referendum or a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, exclusively for errors of procedure in their convocation and implementation.
- Decide on the constitutionality of referendums about laws and popular consultations and plebiscites of a national scope, in the case of the latter, exclusively for errors of procedure in their convocation and implementation.
- Decide on the petitions of unconstitutionality brought by citizens against the laws, both for their substantive content as well as for errors of procedure in their form.
- Decide on the petitions of unconstitutionality brought by citizens against decrees with the force of law issued by the government on the strength of Article 150, paragraph No. 10, and Article 341 of the Constitution for their substantive content as well as for errors of procedure in their form.
- Decide on the exceptions provided for in Article 137 of the Constitution.
- Decide in definitive manner on the constitutionality of the legislative decrees issued by the government on the strength of Articles 212, 213, and 215 of the Constitution.
- Decide in definitive manner on the constitutionality of bills objected to by the government on the grounds of unconstitutionality, and on the constitutionality of proposed statutory bills, both on account of their substantive content as well as for errors of procedure in their form.
- Revise, in the form determined by law, the judicial decisions connected with the protection of constitutional rights.
- Decide in definitive manner on the constitutionality of international treaties and the laws approving them. For this purpose, the government will submit them to the Court within the six days subsequent to their sanction by law. Any citizen may intervene to defend or challenge their constitutionality. Should the Court declare them constitutional, the government may engage in a diplomatic exchange of notes; in the contrary case the laws will not be ratified. When one or several provisions of a multilateral treaty are declared invalid by the Constitutional Court, the President of the Republic alone may ratify it, under reserve of the offending provision.
- Draft its own by laws.
- When the Court finds a remediable error in the drafting of acts subject to its control, it will order their return to the authority which issued them so that, if possible, that authority may correct the defect. Once the error is corrected, it will proceed to decide on the validity of the measure.
The procedures instituted before the Constitutional Court in the matters referred to under this heading will be regulated by the law in accordance with the following provisions:
- Any citizen may institute the public actions provided in the preceding article and intervene as challenger or defender of the provisions submitted for adjudication in procedures instituted by others as well as in those cases where no public action has been filed.
- The National Attorney General must intervene in all procedures.
- Actions to correct errors of form lapse after a year starting from the filing of the action.
- Ordinarily, the Court will have 60 days to decide, and the National Attorney General, 30 days to give his/her opinion.
- In the procedures referred to in paragraph No. 7 of the previous article, the ordinary deadlines will be reduced to a third and their noncompliance will be the cause of a misdemeanor to be sanctioned according to law.
The decisions made by the Court in exercise of its powers of judicial review are constitutional revs judicator. The authorities may not reenact a substantively similar legal act to one previously declared invalid for substantive reasons, while the constitutional provisions that served to challenge the impugned legal act remain in force.Article 244
The Constitutional Court will notify the President of the Republic or the President of the Congress, depending on the case, of the filing of any action that has as its object an examination of the constitutionality of provisions adopted by them. Such notification will not alter the deadlines applicable to the action.Article 245
The government may not provide employment to the judges of the Constitutional Court during the period that they exercise their functions nor in the year following their retirement from the Court.
CHAPTER 5 CONCERNING SPECIAL JURISDICTIONSArticle 246
The authorities of the indigenous (Indian) peoples may exercise their jurisdictional functions within their territorial jurisdiction in accordance with their own laws and procedures provided these are not contrary to the Constitution and the laws of the Republic. The law will establish the forms of coordination of this special jurisdiction with the national judicial system.Article 247
The law may create justices of the peace entrusted with equitably resolving individual and community conflicts. It may also order that they be popularly elected.Article 248
Only final sentences handed down in judicial trials qualify as a criminal record or criminal violation.
CHAPTER 6 CONCERNING THE OFFICEArticle 249
OF THE GENERAL PROSECUTOR
The Office of the General Prosecutor will consist of the General Prosecutor, his/her assistant attorneys, and the other officials determined by the law.
The General Prosecutor will be elected for a period of four years by the Supreme Court of Justice from a list originating with the President of the Republic and is not eligible for reelection.
The candidate must possess the same qualifications required for a judge of the Supreme Court of Justice. The Office of the General Prosecutor is part of the judicial branch and enjoys administrative and budgetary autonomy.Article 250
It is the responsibility of the Office of the General Prosecutor, automatically or following an accusation or conflict to investigate the crimes and to press charges against the suspects before the competent courts and tribunals. Excepted are the crimes committed by members of the public force in active service and related to their service. For such a purpose, the Office of the General Prosecutor must do the following:
- Guarantee the appearance of the criminally accused, and take appropriate measures to this effect. Additionally, should it be necessary, to take the appropriate measures to restore the law and make indemnification for the damage caused by the crime.
- Weigh the evidence and decide on the investigations undertaken and declare them completed.
- Direct and coordinate the functions of the criminal judicial police to be exercised by the national police and other organizations stipulated by law.
- Supervise the protection of victims, witnesses, and participants in a trial.
- Exercise the other functions established by law. The General Prosecutor and his/her assistants have jurisdiction throughout the national territory. The Office of the General Prosecutor is obligated to investigate both what is beneficial and what is disadvantageous to the accused and to respect his/her fundamental rights and the procedural guarantees in his/her favor.
The following are special functions of the General Prosecutor:
- Investigate and press charges, if there are grounds, against senior officials who enjoy constitutional authority, with the exceptions provided in the Constitution.
- Appoint and remove from office, in accordance with the law, workers under his/her jurisdiction.
- Participate in the planning of state policy in criminal matters and present government bills on criminal matters.
- Grant temporary powers to public entities to carry out functions of a judicial police under the responsibility and aegis of the Office of the General Prosecutor.
- Provide information to the government about the investigations that are underway when it is necessary for the preservation of public order.
Even during states of exception covered by the Constitution in Articles 212 and 213, the government is prohibited from eliminating or modifying either the form or the basic function of indictment and trial.Article 253
The law will determine matters relative to the structure an operation of the Office of the General Prosecutor regarding entry and retirement from the service, disqualification or incompatibilities with respect to appointment, qualifications, compensation, social benefits, and discipline of the officials and workers under his/her authority.
CHAPTER 7 CONCERNING THE SUPERIOR COUNCIL OF THE JUDICATUREArticle 254
The Superior Council of the Judicature will be divided into two chambers:
- The administrative chamber, made up of six judges elected for a period of eight years as follows two by the Supreme Court of Justice, one by the Constitutional Court, and three by the Council of State.
- The disciplinary jurisdictional chamber, made up of seven judges elected for a period of eight years by the National Congress from lists originating with the government. Sectional councils of the judicature may also be established as stipulated by law.
In order to be a member of the Superior Council of the Judicature the candidate has to be Colombian by birth, a citizen in good standing, and over 35 years of age; he/she must hold the title of lawyer and have exercised this profession honorably for 10 years. The members of the Council may not be selected from among the judges of the same petitioning bodies.Article 256
The Superior Council of the Judicature or the sectional councils, depending on the case and according to law, will have the power to do the following:
- Administer the Judicial ranking system.
- Draw up lists of candidates for the appointment of judicial officials and send them to the responsible body. Excepted is the penal military jurisdiction which is to be guided by special regulations.
- Examine the behavior and sanction the errors of officials of the judicial branch as well as those of lawyers practicing their profession in those cases stipulated by law.
- Supervise the productivity of judicial bodies and offices.
- Draft the budgetary bill of the judicial branch to be transmitted to the government and implement it in accordance with the approval of Congress.
- Settle jurisdictional conflicts between different organs.
- Other matters stipulated by law.
In accordance with the law, the Superior Council of the Judicature will exercise the following functions:
- Determine the division of the territory for judicial purposes and locate or redistribute judicial offices.
- Establish, eliminate, merge, or transfer responsibilities in the administration of justice. In the exercise of this power, the Superior Council of the Judicature may not commit itself to obligations payable by the Treasury that exceed the total amount allocated for that service in the appropriations law.
- Dictate the necessary regulations for the effective functioning of the administration of justice, matters connected with the organization and internal functions assigned to the various offices, and the regulations for judicial and administrative measures taken by judicial bodies where not provided by the legislature.
- Propose bills concerning the administration of justice and substantive and procedural codes.
- Other matters stipulated by law.