Costa Rica 1949 Constitution (reviewed 2020)

Table of Contents

Title XI. The Judicial Power

Sole Chapter.

Article 152

The judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and by the other tribunals that the law establishes.

Article 153

It corresponds to the Judicial Power, in addition to the functions that this Constitution specifies for it, to take cognizance of the civil, penal, commercial, labor, and contentious-administrative causes as well as of the others that the law establishes, whatever their nature may be and the character of the persons that intervene; to decide permanently on them and to execute the resolutions that it pronounces, with the help of the public force if necessary.

Article 154

The Judicial Power is submitted only to the Constitution and to the law, and the resolutions it adopts on the matters of its competence do not impose on it other responsibilities than those expressly specified by the legislative precepts.

Article 155

No tribunal may retract to itself the cognizance of causes pending before another. Uniquely, the tribunals of the Judicial Power may request the files ad effectum videndi.

Article 156

The Supreme Court of Justice is the superior tribunal of the Judicial Power, and the tribunals, functionaries and employees in the judicial branch [ramo] are dependent of it, without prejudice to that provided by this Constitution concerning [the] civil service.

Article 157

The Supreme Court of Justice will be formed by the Magistrates necessary for good service; they will be elected by the Legislative Assembly, which will integrate the various Chambers that the law indicates.

The diminution of the number of Magistrates, whatever this comes to be, may only be agreed [with] prior [and] all the procedures [trámites] provided for the partial reforms to this Constitution.

Article 158

The Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice will be elected for a period of eight years and by the votes of the two-thirds part of the totality of the members of the Legislative Assembly. In the performance of their functions, they must act with efficiency and will be considered re-elected for equal periods, unless the contrary is agreed in a vote of no less than the two-thirds part of the totality of the members of the Legislative Assemble. The vacancies will be filled for complete periods of eight years.

Article 159

[The following] is required to be [a] Magistrate:

  1. To be [a] Costa Rican by birth, [or] by naturalization, with domicile in the country for no less than ten years after obtaining the respective letter. Nevertheless, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice must be Costa Rican by birth;
  2. To be a citizen in exercise;
  3. To belong to the secular status;
  4. To be older than thirty-five years of age;
  5. To posses a degree of lawyer, issued or legally recognized in Costa Rica, and to have exercised the profession for ten years at least, unless it concerns judicial functionaries with judicial practice of no less than five years.

The Magistrates must, before entering into possession of the office, render the guarantee that the law establishes.

Article 160

Whoever is bound by kinship within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity inclusive, to a member of the Supreme Court of Justice[,] may not be elected as a Magistrate.

Article 161

The quality of Magistrate is incompatible with that of functionary of the other Supreme Powers.

Article 162

The Supreme Court of Justice will appoint its President, from the list [of nominations] of Magistrates who integrate it, in the same way, it will appoint the Presidents of the various chambers, all in the form and for the time that the law specifies.

Article 163

The election and replacement of the Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice, will be done within the thirty calendar days following the expiration of the respective period or the date on which it is communicated that a vacancy has occurred.

Article 164

The Legislative Assembly will appoint no less than twenty-five substitute Magistrates chosen from the list [of nominations] of fifty candidates that the Supreme Court of Justice will present to it. The temporary absences of the Magistrates will be filled by lot [sorteo] that the Supreme Court of Justice will make among the substitute Magistrates. If a position of substitute Magistrate is vacant, the election will fall on one of the two candidates that the Court proposes and will be effected in the first ordinary or extraordinary session that the Legislative Assembly celebrates after receiving the corresponding communication. The law will specify the time period of its exercise and the conditions, restrictions and prohibitions established for the titular, that are not applicable to the substitutes.

Article 165

The Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice may not be suspended except by declaration that there should be the formation of [a] cause or for the motives that the law expresses in the chapter corresponding to the disciplinary regime. In this last case, the agreement has to be taken by the Supreme Court of Justice, in [a] secret vote of no less than two-thirds of the total of its members.

Article 166

Concerning what is not specified by this Constitution, the law will specify the jurisdiction, the number and the duration of the tribunals, as well as their attributions, the principles to which they must adjust their acts and the manner of demanding responsibility of them.

Article 167

For the discussion and approval of bills of law that refer to the organization or functioning of the Judicial Power, the Legislative Assembly must consult [with] the Supreme Court of Justice; to divert from the criteria of this, the vote of the two-thirds part of the total of the members of the Assembly will be required.