Judge’s ruling confirms amendment to notary law is unconstitutional
By The Star Staff
San Juan Superior Court Judge Alfonso Martínez Piovanetti on Tuesday declared an amendment to the Public Notary law unconstitutional because it was placed in a totally unrelated law.
Article 86, the amendment to the Public Notary law, was included in Act 52 of 2022, the law that changes the tax treatment given to controlled foreign corporations (CFCs). Article 86 requires a property appraisal carried out by a licensed appraiser, a title deed study and a plot plan in all property transactions, including sales, donations, transfers, segregations or groupings.
The Lawyers Association and the Puerto Rico Bar Association sued to stop the implementation of Article 86, which caused delays in property transactions and made them more expensive. On Monday, the Justice Department said Article 86 was unconstitutional because all bills must deal only with one issue.
The judge agreed, stating that Article 86 of Act 52 of 2022 does not reveal what relationship, if any, the aforementioned amendment to the Notary Law has with the “general matter” or the “main objective” of the tax treatment received by CFCs in Puerto Rico.
“Even after making a liberal interpretation of the constitutionality of the provision and making all possible inferences in its favor, we have not been able to identify what is the rational link between the general issue regarding the tax treatment of certain corporations with the new requirement of an appraisal, a plot plan and a title study for all real estate transactions in Puerto Rico,” the judge said. “The applicability of the requirement was not limited to the transactions of segregation, grouping or transfer of real estate carried out by said foreign entities, but rather its scope is unlimited and applies to any deed to modify the domain of real estate that is authorized by a notary in our jurisdiction, without distinction of entities or persons.”
Martínez Piovanetti also said that even when the title of Act 52 briefly mentions the amendment to the Notary Public Law, it is not enough to satisfy the express constitutional requirement that all laws approved by the Legislature have a single issue or matter, and that no amendment to a bill change its original purpose or incorporate extraneous matter into it.
“In fact, the amendment presented and approved by the Legislature that later became Article 86 of Law No. 52 resulted in the incorporation of a totally foreign and incongruous matter to the bill on the tax treatment of foreign corporations, so that it constitutes a rider prohibited by our constitutional order,” the judge said.