Supreme Court of Chile
The Supreme Court
Supreme court
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of many legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, instance court, judgment court, high court, or apex court...

 of Chile
is the highest court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 in Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. It also administrates the lower courts in the nation. It is located in the capital Santiago
Santiago, Chile
Santiago , also known as Santiago de Chile, is the capital and largest city of Chile, and the center of its largest conurbation . It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of above mean sea level...


In the Chilean system, the court lacks the broader power of judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

 — it cannot set binding precedent or invalidate laws. Instead, it acts on a case-by-case basis. Trials are carried out in salas, chambers of at least five judges, presided over by the most senior member.


The members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President
President of Chile
The President of the Republic of Chile is both the head of state and the head of government of the Republic of Chile. The President is responsible of the government and state administration...

, but must be chosen from a list of five choices which is prepared by the sitting members of the court. Two of these choices must be senior judges from appellate courts; the other three need not have any judicial experience. The president's choice must then be ratified by the Senate
Senate of Chile
The Senate of the Republic of Chile is the upper house of Chile's bicameral National Congress, as established in the current Constitution of Chile.-Composition:...


Supreme Court justices must be at least 36 years old. Once appointed, a Chilean Supreme Court justice is extremely difficult to remove from office. Justices are entitled to remain on the Court until the compulsory retirement age of 75. Otherwise, a justice can be removed only if he or she incurs in "notorious abandonment of duty" established in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has twenty-one members, called ministros. One member is selected to serve a two-year term as President of the Supreme Court.

Current Supreme Court members

The composition of the Supreme Court changes relatively quickly, as judges attain the retirement age of 75. This list was last updated on May 25, 2009.
  • Milton Iván Juica Arancibia (President)
  • Urbano Marín Vallejo
  • Orlando Antonio Álvarez Hernández
  • Nibaldo Segura Peña
  • Adalis Salvador Oyarzún Miranda
  • Jaime del Carmen Rodríguez Espoz
  • Rubén Alberto Ballesteros Cárcamo
  • Sergio Manuel Muñoz Gajardo
  • Margarita Eliana Herreros Martínez
  • Hugo Enrique Dolmestch Urra
  • Juan Araya Elizalde
  • Raúl Patricio Valdés Aldunate
  • Héctor Guillermo Carreño Seaman
  • Pedro Pierry Arrau
  • Gabriela Pérez Paredes
  • Sonia Mireya Araneda Briones
  • Carlos Guillermo Künsemüller Loebenfelder
  • Haroldo Osvaldo Brito Cruz
  • Guillermo Enrique Silva Gundelach
  • Rosa María Maggi Ducommun
  • Vacant

Augusto Pinochet

The Chilean Supreme Court has been involved in many important human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 cases regarding the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, more commonly known as Augusto Pinochet , was a Chilean army general and dictator who assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973...

  • In July 2002, it dismissed a case against Pinochet, saying that he was unfit to stand trial due to dementia
    Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging...

  • In August 2004, it confirmed a lower court's decision that Pinochet should lose his automatic immunity he acquired from being a former senator.
  • In March 2005, it reversed a lower court's decision stripping Pinochet of immunity in the case of the assassination
    To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

     of Carlos Prats
    Carlos Prats
    General Carlos Prats González was a Chilean Army officer, a political figure, minister and Vice President of Chile during President Salvador Allende's government, and General Augusto Pinochet's predecessor as commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army...

  • In August 2007, it upheld a life sentence for Hugo Salas Wenzel
    Hugo Salas Wenzel
    Hugo Salas Wenzel was a General in the Chilean Army during the Presidency of Augusto Pinochet. In August 2007 he was the first former senior military official sentenced to life for human rights violations in Chile during the 1980s....

    , the first senior official to receive a life term for human rights violations conducted during the reign of Pinochet.

Gay rights

The Chilean Supreme Court has made controversial decisions in the area of gay rights.
  • In 2004, it confirmed a lower court's decision that stripped former judge Karen Atala
    Karen Atala
    Karen Atala Riffo is a Chilean lawyer from Palestinian origin, judge, and mother of three girls. In 2005, she moved in with her female partner in Santiago. Her ex-husband took offense to this, although he has admitted doing so only for the purposes of revenge...

     of custody of her three daughters because she is a lesbian
    Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

    . The case has been taken up by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
    Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States .Along with the...

  • In January 2004, it removed judge Daniel Calvo
    Daniel Calvo
    Daniel Calvo was a Santiago Court of Appeals judge of the Republic of Chile. At the moment is a 4º judicial attorney in the Santiago Court of Appeals....

     from his position on the Santiago Court of Appeals, after media reports that he visited a sauna
    A sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions, or an establishment with one or more of these and auxiliary facilities....

     frequented by gay men. (See Spiniak Case.)

Women's Health

  • In November 2005, the Chilean Supreme Court ruled that the sale of contraceptive morning-after pill Postinor 2 is constitutional.

Alberto Fujimori

On September 21, 2007, the court accepted Peru's request to extradite former president Alberto Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori Fujimori served as President of Peru from 28 July 1990 to 17 November 2000. A controversial figure, Fujimori has been credited with the creation of Fujimorism, uprooting terrorism in Peru and restoring its macroeconomic stability, though his methods have drawn charges of...

, on human rights and corruption charges.

External links

Chilean Judiciary website
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