Bolivia - Judicial system

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The Bolivian judiciary usually defers to the political direction of the nation's executive. Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court, the superior district courts in each department (courts of second instance), and the local courts (courts of first instance). The Supreme Court, which sits at Sucre, is divided into four chambers: two deal with civil cases, one with criminal cases, and one with administrative, mining, and social cases. The 12 Supreme Court judges, called ministros, are chosen for 10-year terms by a two-thirds vote of the Chamber of Deputies from a list of three names submitted for each vacancy by the Senate. They may be reelected indefinitely.

Most cases that reach the Supreme Court are appellate; its area of original jurisdiction is limited mainly to decisions on the constitutionality of laws and to disputes involving diplomats or important government officials. Each district court judge is elected by the Senate for six years from a list of three submitted by the Supreme Court.

The district courts usually hear appeals from the courts of first instance. Judges of the courts of first instance (tribunales and juzgados) are chosen by the Supreme Court from a list submitted by the district courts. There is also a separate national labor court and an agrarian court, dealing with agrarian reform cases.

Defendants have a right to counsel, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to appeal. These rights are generally respected.

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