The commonwealth of Puerto Rico is one of 12 unincorporated territories of the United States. Puerto Ricans enjoy autonomy on local issues and do not have to pay federal taxes. They are considered natural born citizens of the United States, but cannot vote in U.S. Presidential elections. In most other respects however, Puerto Rico functions as a state government within the United States.
Puerto Rico’s court system is similar to those of other states. It consists of a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeals, a Superior Court, and a District Court. There are also smaller municipal courts on the island, as well as a Federal District Court in San Juan.
There are over 12,000 lawyers in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican attorneys must pass a bar examination and a background check before being allowed to practice in Puerto Rico. Because there are more Puerto Ricans living in the United States than in Puerto Rico, there are a variety of large voluntary Puerto Rican bar associations throughout the country. The Puerto Rican Bar Association of New York boasts over 500 members, for instance.
Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth and as a semi-autonomous territory of the United States has often caused controversy. In 1917, a law designated all Puerto Rican natives to be natural born United States citizens. Whether this can be taken away via a new law is open to debate. In 1999, a Puerto Rican citizen appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States to decide whether his daughter was indeed a natural born citizen, or needed to be naturalized in order to ensure her citizenship would remain permanent. The Supreme Court denied the request, and the question remains unanswered.
If you need an attorney in Puerto Rico or would like to learn more about the legal field and your options, visit LegalMatch.com. Alternatively, feel free to peruse the following external links for more information on Puerto Rico law and practice:
- The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico
- Serivicio Legales de Puerto Rico