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Researching Chilean Law: Getting Started


Chile, like other Latin American nations, follows the civil law tradition.  Civil law, which has its roots in Roman law, features reliance on codified law rather than precedential case law.  A helpful introduction to the civil law tradition is noted below. 

In general, locating and then interpreting sources of Chilean law can be challenging, particularly for non-Spanish-speaking researchers.  Keep in mind that, when approaching a question related to Chilean law (or foreign law generally), it is often advantageous to start with a secondary source.  There are several online guides in English that can serve as introductions to understanding and researching Chilean law. These resources are listed at right.

On October 25, 2020, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of drafting a new constitution. The plebiscite was covered extensively in the local, regional, and international press. On May 15 and 16, 2021, Chileans again went to the polls to elect 155 representatives to the Constitutional Convention. 

On December 20, 2021, Chilean citizens elected thirty-five-year-old Gabriel Boric to be the country's next president. Boric is a leftist and former student leader who became Chile's youngest president when he was sworn in on March 11, 2022.

On September 4, 2022, Chileans overwhelmingly (62% of voters) rejected the draft of a proposed new constitution. 

On January 25, 2023, the Chilean Senate confirmed the appointments of 12 people to serve on an Expert Committee responsible for compiling a preliminary draft of a new constitution. 

On May 8, 2023, Chileans chose the 50 members of a new Constitutional Council. 

On June 7, 2023, the Expert Commission handed off its preliminary draft to the Constitutional Council. 

On November 7, 2023, the Constitutional Council submittted its constitutional draft to President Gabriel Boric. 

On December 17, 2023, Chileans voted down a second constitutional draft in a plebiscite, with 55% voting against it

Introductions to Chilean Law and Researching Chilean Law

There are several websites that provide introductions to Chilean law and Chilean legal research.  Note that a number of U.S. law libraries offer webliographies for Chile.  Try Googling "legal research" and "Chile" to locate these pages.  See also the "Databases" tab for information on several commercial databases that also provide introductions and descriptions of Chilean law and legal resources.

Webinar on Chile's Constitutional Convention (2021)

"Chile's Constitutional Convention: What's Next?". Webinar conducted on May 19, 2021. Recording available. Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Americas and Columbia University Global Centers (Santiago). Speakers included Claudia Heiss, Head, Political Science, Institute of Public Affairs, University of Chile. 

Understanding Civil Law

An excellent introduction to civil law systems is available via the WWW link listed below. Other books on civil law may be located using the UIC Libraries' online catalog (see the "Books" tab for more info).

BBC Radio Interview with Michelle Bachelet (2019)

An interview with Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rightswas conducted on BBC Radio as part of its "Her Story Made History" series. The interview was conducted on August 29, 2019, and is posted here. The discussion primarily  focuses on Dr. Bachelet's experiences under the Pinochet regime. The interview is in English and lasts about twenty-eight minutes. 

Chile's Criminal Justice Reform

Chilean law professors Hugo Rojas and Rafael Blanco of the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law adjunct professor Richard Hutt, wrote an excellent article in English about Chile's criminal justice reform, which occurred in the early 2000s.:

Rafael Blanco, Richard Hutt & Hugo Rojas, Reform to the Criminal Justice System in Chile:  Evaluation and Challenges,"  2.2 LOY. U. CHI. INT'L L. REV.  253 (2004-2005).

Chilean Contract Law

PowerPoint Presentations

The first PowerPoint accompanied a talk on Chilean legal research given at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in Seattle on July 16, 2013.  The speaker was Sergio Stone, Robert Crown Law Library, Stanford University. (Posted with permission.)

The second set of PowerPoint slides was prepared for the Loyola University Chicago Law School course, "Comparative Law Seminar:  Legal Systems in the Americas."

Online Translators

English translations of Latin American legal materials are often difficult to locate and can be unreliable.  Only in rare instances are authoritative English translations available.  If authoritative versions are not available, look for "official" translations that are created by, or for, a government organization.  Further, look for synoptic translations, which allow for side-by-side comparisons of the vernacular with the English translation.  Some types of Latin American legal materials are translated into English more often than others, such as those pertaining to commercial law. 

Many online translators are available on the WWW, but these should be used with caution since web translators do not generally include specialized legal or commercial vocabulary.  Online translators, however, may be of some help in getting the general sense of a document or passage.  Examples of WWW translators are: