Private law in Mexico?

I just finished an excellent book about Mexico’s democratization called Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy by Ny Times reporters (and Pulitzer Prize winners) Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon.  The book was published in 2005, so it isn’t exactly recent, but it was well worth it.  Chock full of behind the scenes details and interesting tidbits, I’d highly recommend it.

The authors made one point that I found incredible and I’m wondering if there are any readers who can tell me if this is still true.  They write:

The judiciary was traditionally the weakest branch of government, and a legal principle that has become central to the operation of the Mexican system symbolized the bench’s limited powers:  laws ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court remained in force for all citizens except those who filed the legal challenge.  The principle was pioneered in 1847 by Mariano Otero, an eminent constitutional lawyer.  To this day, the Otero principle has forced all Mexicans except a handful of wealthy litigants to obey laws already ruled unconstitutional and obligated the country’s highest tribunal to spin its wheels endlessly, reviewing the constitutionality of the same laws again and again.

I’m fascinated by this and I have to say it explains a lot about the Mexican judiciary and its ineffectiveness.  What was the legal reasoning behind such a principle? It seems to violate all notions of common sense, fairness, ethics, and rule of law. Does anyone know of any other countries that have had a similar rule?