Vitelio Mejia Ortiz, Partner in the Dispute Resolution practice group of Pellerano & Herrera, shares the insight he has accumulated throughout more than 40 years of experience as a litigation attorney. His practice is dedicated to both civil and corporate litigation as well as in administrative law. He has actively participated in several important concession projects and tenders, either as counsel to licensor government agencies or advising private concessionaires, and is a recognized and trusted authority in the field of air transport and aviation law. As a highly-regarded litigator and specialist, Mejia Ortiz - who also serves as President of the Dominican Baseball League (LIDOM), speaks to Benchmark Latin America editor Shailyn Tirado about his years of experience, local market trends, and keen advice for future lawyers.
You have more than 40 years of experience in the disputes market in the Dominican Republic. What is one of the most beneficial lessons you have learned that continues to help your practice at Pellerano & Herrera?
One of the lessons I’ve learned is that not all cases are alike. Because of this, each matter requires careful study of factual and legal circumstances. Another thing I’ve learned is that there is no difference in the treatment of cases based on the amounts involved, large or small. Any case represents the interest of a client.
How does Pellerano & Herrera's dispute resolution practice differ from some of your competitors?
Our team at Pellerano & Herrera aims to provide keen attention to detail in a collaborative manner. The synergy we have between our various practice groups creates a solid foundation for us to handle cases. We always operate with the aim of an early solution for our client that limits or saves costs, and, in the event that litigation is required, we carefully monitor all procedural components and deadlines.
What is one thing the public should understand about litigation in the Dominican Republic compared to the rest of the world?
The court system structure in the Dominican Republic is unique in a number of ways. While we have several levels of judiciaries (Peace Courts, Court of First Instance, Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court), the backlog of pending cases has overwhelmed our courts. There is a high number of varying cases and a limited number of secondary courts, chambers and qualifying judges. Often times, this causes delays in decisions.
Are there any dispute resolution market trends you are noticing that may have an impact on your practice in the next coming months/years?
This may be an aspect of our local jurisprudence that was accelerated in other parts of the world, but in the Dominican Republic, digitalization of documents and files will certainly translate to a more rapid progression of cases. This will help increase the pace with which we receive notifications and updates on case statuses, providing more efficiency in the disputes area.
Throughout the course of your longstanding career, what has been your most memorable case to date? Why?
I have had a number of memorable cases in my career. As a member of the Board of Directors of several important companies in the aviation industry, I've had the privilege of participating in the drafting and formulation of laws for the tourism and aviation sectors. With this role came of number of memorable representations. One particular case that stands out to me was a dispute related to the eviction of Free Zone stores at the airports and the defense of the concessionaire of multiple liability actions filed by users at the airports.
You serve as the President of the Dominican Baseball League (LIDOM) where you are responsible for representing the League and Dominican baseball before organizations and institutions, such as Major League Baseball and other entities around the world. You also served as mediator for a conflict involving the National Federation of Professional Baseball Players (FENAPEPRO) and sportswriters. What do these roles mean to you and what are some of the biggest challenges you face when providing legal counsel in this area?
These roles have meant a great deal to me. The presidency of the LIDOM implies a big responsibility. This institution governs and regulates professional baseball, which is the national sport of the Dominican Republic. The biggest challenge that I have had to face in this role has been the reformulation of the Articles of Association of the LIDOM, text that forms the league's constitution and defines the responsibilities of its directors. This internal reorganization consisted of mediations relating to each party's respective interests. In addition to that, another challenge on this front pertained to the relaunch of the league's institutional image at a national and international level, and the restoration and improvement of their inter-institutional relationships with different entities in the field of baseball.
What advice would you give lawyers who are just starting their litigation careers?
The advice I would share would be to assume each case is the most important case you are working on. Cultivate ongoing communication with your clients, and always keep in mind that each of the cases you are involved in are most likely the most important issues on your client's agenda. Because of this, remember to be studious and keep up-to-date notes about the changes in relevant legislation and jurisprudential criteria necessary to win your case.