Heather Memess, May 2016
About the author
This guide was created by Heather Memess, Legal Research Support Librarian at the IALS Library.
Click here for Heather's contact details.
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Mexico is a federal republic made up of 31 states and one Federal District. It is a civil law country with a legal system based on codes and legislation. Mexico became a Spanish colony in the early 16th century remaining under Spanish control for 300 years until gaining independence in the early nineteenth century.
At the federal level, the government is divided into the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch is headed by the directly elected President of the Republic and the legislative branch consists of the upper house, the Senate (Senado) and the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados). The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) which has final appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts. Each of the 31 states has its own civil and criminal courts.
IALS holds both primary and secondary legal materials for Mexico. The majority of Mexican primary legal materials are in Spanish but the library also has translations of many key texts.
The constitution is the fundamental law in Mexico. The current constitution was adopted in 1917 and replaced the previous constitutions of 1857 and 1824.
IALS has copies of all three versions (in Spanish) in the following publications:
Rafael I Martínez Morales, Constitución política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos : comentada (OUP 2000)
Constitucion politica de los estados unidos Mexicanos (Editorial Porrua 1988)
Constitucion federal de los Estados-unidos mexicanos (Imprenta de Ignacio Cumplido 1857)
The 1824 constitution is included in this compilation of nineteenth century Mexican laws:
Derecho Publico Mexicano Mexico: Compilacion que contiene: importantes documentos relativos á la independencia etc. (Imprenta del gobierno 1871)
An amended version of the constitution is available in Spanish in the legislation section of the website of the Chamber of Deputies.
Amendments to the constitution, arranged by article, can be viewed on the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas webpage. The government's Orden Juridico Nacional website also has amendments and historical documents on the constitution along with state constitutions arranged alphabetically.
English and Spanish versions of the Mexican constitutions can also be accessed online in World Constitutions Illustrated, from HeinOnline. This subscription service provides consolidated and original texts along with amendments and older versions. Full text links to commentaries and articles about the Mexican Constitution and a select bibliography of constitutional works are also given.
Mexico is part of the civil law tradition with a legal system based on codes. IALS holds copies of a number of codes including the federal civil, commercial and criminal codes.
IALS holds Spanish and English versions of the federal civil code. Although individual states have their own civil codes most of these are based on the federal version.
Julián Güitrón Fuentevilla (ed), Código civil federal (Porrúa 2012)
Michael Wallace Gordon (tr), Mexican civil code (Oceana Publications 1980) [updated to 1978, in English]
Abraham Eckstein and Enrique Zepeda Trujillo (trs), Mexican civil code (West Publishing 1996) [bilingual version of the federal civil code]
All commercial matters fall under federal jurisdiction in Mexico. IALS holds the following copies of the federal commercial code.
Código de comercio actualizado (1889) (McGraw-Hill 1999) [Includes commercial, banking and finance laws]
Abraham Eckstein and Enrique Zepeda Trujillo (trs), Mexican commercial code (West Publishing 1996) [bilingual version updated to 1996]
Civil Procedure Code
Código de procedimientos civiles para el Distrito Federal y Territorios (1932) (Porrúa 2000)
Código penal (1931) (Editorial Porrúa 1975)
Criminal Procedure Code
Código de procedimientos penales para el Distrito Federal y Territorios (1931) (Editorial Porrúa 1975)
Código fiscal de la Federación (1966) (Editorial Porrúa 1975)
Current versions of all codes are available on the Chamber of Deputies website.
IALS has publications providing access to legislation covering particular areas of Mexican law such as
Gordon, Michael Wallace (ed), Doing business in Mexico (Transnational Juris Publications 1991)
This 3 volume loose leaf publication has background information and guidance on business related laws in Mexico. Areas covered include accounting, taxation, trade, environment and commercial law. Key documents for business are provided in Spanish and English eg. Industrial Property Law, Foreign Trade Law and Consumer Protection Law.
Other legislative materials held at IALS include:
Repertorio anual de legislación nacional y extranjera (Instituto de Derecho Comparado / Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 1958 - 1967)
Derecho Publico Mexicano (Imprenta del gobierno 1871 - 1882)
This is a collection of nineteenth century legal documents relating to Mexico’s independence.
Federal and state legislation is freely available online mostly in Spanish. The Chamber of Deputies provides full text federal laws in force including all legal codes and also gives free access to regulations.
The Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas (Institute for Legal Research) is a department of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. This site has federal and state legislation along with the Diario Oficial de la Federación (Official Gazette) which is available online back to 2000. This publication contains all new federal legislation and legislation that applies to the Federal District and states. The Official Gazette can also be viewed on the government’s Secretaría de Gobernación (Secretariat of the Interior) website. State gazettes can be found on the Orden Juridico Nacional website.
Although Mexico is a civil law jurisdiction it does have a form of legally binding precedent called jurisprudencia. These are Supreme Court decisions which are binding on lower courts if a legal issue has been decided the same way in five consecutive cases. Decisions of the Collegiate Circuit Courts are also jurisprudencias provided they are based on five consecutive and uninterrupted decisions approved by a majority of magistrates for each court. These decisions are published in the Semanario Judicial de la Federación (Federal Judicial Weekly) and are available back to 1917 on the Supreme Court website in Spanish only. Further information on jurisprudencia is given by Serna de la Garza in this article in the Mexican Law Review
The Supreme Court website also provides access to federal court decisions.
Older judgments handed down by the Mexican federal courts are included in this 8 volume work of which IALS holds volume 1:
Coleccion de las sentencias pronunciadas por los tribunales federales de la república 1881- 1886 (Veraza, 1881-86)
The following publications, not held at IALS, also have Mexican court reports:
Julian Bunster Ariztia (ed. and trans.), Theses Compilation and Systematization Bureau of the Mexican Supreme Court, Relevant Decisions of the Mexican Supreme Court: 1917-2004 (Tribunal de Justicia Supremo de la Nación 2009). Contains selected Supreme Court decisions translated into English.
Anales de Jurisprudencia (Tribunal Superior de Justicia 1990–).The years 1998 – 2004 of this publication can also be viewed on the Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas website.
IALS has a small collection of Mexican legal journals:
Revista de la Facultad de derecho de Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Facultad de Derecho) IALS has 1951 – 2013
La Justicia : revista mensual (Mexico D.F.) IALS has 1962 – 1981 (incomplete)
Juridica : Anuario del Departamento de Derecho de la Universidad Iberoamericana. (Universidad Iberoamericana) IALS has 1969 – (incomplete)
Lecturas jurídicas, Chihuahua : Universidad de Chihuahua, Escuela de Derecho. IALS has 1969 – 1978 (incomplete)
Boletín mexicano de derecho comparado (Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas) IALS has 1968 – 1990. This title is continued online to date and can be freely accessed at http://biblio.juridicas.unam.mx/revista/DerechoComparado/numeros.htm
Mexican Law Review is an online journal published, in English, by the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The complete archive from 2004 onwards can be accessed using HeinOnline and articles from 2008 onwards are freely available from the website.
The Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas website gives full text access to a number of other Mexican law journals, mostly in Spanish.
Additional titles can be found on the subscription database HeinOnline:
Anales del foro mexicano (Imp. de J. Abadiano 1864 – 1866)
Revista general de derecho y jurisprudencia (Mexico D.F 1930 – 1934)
IALS has one Mexican law digest:
Legislación y jurisprudencia : gaceta informativa (Ciudad Universitaria : Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México 1972 – 1984) IALS has 1972 – 1981 (incomplete).
In 1985 this publication became Gaceta informativa de legislacion nacional and IALS holds volumes up to 1991.
IALS library has a selection of books on Mexican law in both English and Spanish. Recent acquisitions include:
Jorge Barrera Graf, Instituciones de derecho mercantil : generalidades, derecho de la empresa, sociedades (Editorial Porrúa 2014)
José María Serna de la Garza, The Constitution of Mexico : a contextual analysis (Hart 2013)
Francisco Tortolero Cervantes and Carlos Pérez Vázquez, El juicio de amparo en la declaración universal de los derechos humanos : el patrimonio documental de la SCJN : una postulación a la UNESCO (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación 2015)
Cristos Velasco San Martín, Cyber law in Mexico (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012)
Silvino Vergara Nava, Clasificación de las violaciones de fondo y forma en los procedimientos de las autoridades tributarias (Parmenas 2012)
There are a number of good websites offering free access to Mexican law including many government sites. Most of these are free and in Spanish only. A small selection is highlighted here:
Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) federal and state legislation and full text copies of the official gazette. Spanish.
Senado de la República (Senate) provides access to updated laws, regulations, treaties and other legal materials. Spanish.
Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (Supreme Court) includes Federal and Supreme Court decisions. Spanish.
Orden Juridico Nacional website of the Office of Legal Affairs has international, constitutional, federal, state and municipal laws in Spanish.
Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM (Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico) has a comprehensive collection of primary and secondary legal materials. Spanish.
An Electronic Guide to Mexican Law this comprehensive research guide to Mexican law is provided on the Globalex website in English.
Mexican Law and Legal Research: A Guide Prepared in Conjunction with the Program 'Mexican Law and Legal Research: Overcoming the Challenges' by Jonathan Pratter (and others) can be downloaded from the Social Science Research Network site. English.
An updated version of this guide is also available:
Bianca Anderson (and others), ‘Research guide to Mexican law’ (2016) 35 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 18.
Mexlaw site compiled by Jorge A. Vargas of the University of San Diego which includes an overview of the Mexican legal system and links to Mexican legal sites. English.
Mexican Laws is a subscription site providing English translations of Mexican laws.
Eagle-i IALS internet portal to law signposts to 22 high quality web resources on Mexican law.