Throughout Chile’s more than 200 years of history, various state institutions have played their part in constructing our Republic, both mapping out and solidifying our democracy. One example is Chile’s Supreme Court, the highest jurisdictional body within the Judiciary, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2023. Imagen de Chile has compiled information about this and other historic milestones that have cemented the foundations of the Chilean State.
Following the declaration of national independence and the installation of the first government council, the authorities began defining an institutional structure for the fledgling Republic. In 1811, the First National Congress was established, during a period called “Patria Vieja” (Old Homeland), in which the country’s first institutional and legal framework was implemented and developed. In 1812, the Provisional Constitutional Regulation was issued; it included 27 articles, and was in force until October 1813.
On December 29, 1823, Chile’s Supreme Court was established, and protected by the Political Constitution of that same year. It is one of the longest-serving institutions of its kind throughout the world, and the oldest in Latin America that continues to operate. The “first judicial magistracy of the State” had the role of “protecting, enforcing and asserting individual and judicial guarantees from the other branches.”
Notwithstanding changes to its name and powers, it remains the highest court of the Republic, for which it has received the official title of “Excellence”. Since 1997, it has been made up of 21 members, comprised of the president of the Supreme Court and its ministers, who are appointed by the President of the Republic and ratified by the Senate. The hold the status of “Your Honor”. The highest court is currently made up of seven women, who account for 35% of its members. It functions out of its imposing building on Calle Compañía, between Morandé and Bandera, in the historic center of the Chilean capital, Santiago.
The birth of the Republic
The Supreme Court is not, however, the only institution that has existed since independence. The National Institute and the National Library were also established during the “Patria Vieja” period. Furthermore, the Press Law and the Primary Education Law were also enacted. This last established that every town with 50 inhabitants or more should maintain a “public school, financed with local municipal resources, and therefore without cost to its students.”
Following the “Reconquista Española” (Spanish Reconquest) in 1817, under the command of Supreme Director Bernardo O’Higgins, the State promoted various legal initiatives. They included the declaration of the abolition of entailed estate and titles of nobility, as well as the sale of public offices; the regulation of schools, customs and cemeteries; equality before the law for indigenous people; and the amnesty law of 1822. A new Constitution was also enacted, which established the creation of three state ministries: Treasury, Government and Foreign Affairs, and War and Navy. Portugal, Peru, France, the United States and England were the first nations to recognize the sovereignty of Chile.
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