The Judicial Branch

Title XI The Judicial Branch

Article 152

The judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and by other courts established by law.

Article 153

In addition to the functions vested in it by this Constitution, the Judicial Branch shall hear civil, criminal, commercial, labor, and administrative-litigation cases, as well as any others established by law, regardless of their nature or the status of the persons involved; enter final resolutions thereon and execute the judgments entered, with the assistance of law enforcement forces, if necessary.

Article 154

The Judicial Branch is subject only to the Constitution and the law, and the decisions entered by it on matters within its competence impose no responsibilities other than those specifically set forth in legislation.

Article 155

No court may take over cognizance of cases pending in another court. Only the courts of the Judicial Branch may request Court files ad effectum vivendi.

Article 156

The Supreme Court of Justice is the highest court of the Judicial Branch, and all courts, officials and employees of the Judicial Branch are subordinate to it, without prejudice of any provisions of this Constitution concerning civil service.

Article 157

The Supreme Court of Justice shall be composed of the number of Justices that may be considered necessary for a good service; they shall be elected by the Legislative Assembly, which shall make up the different Court Chambers established by law.

A reduction in the number of Justices, whatever this may be, can only be decided in accordance with all procedures established for partial amendments to this Constitution.
(As amended by Law No. 1749, June 8, 1954.)

Article 158

The Justices of the Supreme Court of Justice shall be elected for eight years and shall be considered as reelected for equal terms, unless otherwise decided by the Legislative Assembly by a vote of two thirds of its entire membership.
Vacancies shall be filled to complete the full eight year terms.

Article 159

The following is required to be a Justice:
  1. To be a Costa Rican by birth, or by naturalization, with residence in the country for no less than ten years after obtaining the appropriate naturalization certificate.
  2. However, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be a Costa Rican by birth;
    • To be a citizen in the exercise of his rights;
    • To be a layman;
    • To be over thirty-five years of age;
    • To have a degree in Law issued or legally recognized in Costa Rica and to have practiced the profession for at least ten years, except in the case of judicial officials with not less than five years of judicial experience.
(The first paragraph of this section was so amended by Law No. 2026, June 15, 1956.)
Before taking office, Justices shall provide an official bond as provided by law.

Article 160

No person related to a member of the Supreme Court of Justice by consanguinity or affinity to the third degree inclusive may be elected Justice.

Article 161

The position of Justice is incompatible with that of any official of the other Supreme Branches.

Article 162

The Supreme Court of Justice shall appoint its Chief Justice from the list of Justices who compose it. It shall also appoint the Chief Justices of the various chambers in the manner and for the term as provided by law.
(As amended by Law No. 6769, June 2, 1982.)

Article 163

The election of the justices of the Supreme Court of Justice shall be held at any of the ten sessions prior to completion of the respective period; replacements shall be decided at any of the eight sessions subsequent to the one in which notice of a vacancy is received.

Article 164

The Legislative Assembly shall appoint no less than twenty-five alternate Justices, selected from a list of fifty candidates submitted by the Supreme Court of Justice. Temporary absences of Justices shall be filled by lot by the Supreme Court from the list of alternates.

If there is a vacancy among the alternate Justices, one of two candidates proposed by the Supreme Court shall be elected at the first regular or special session of the Legislative Assembly after receipt of the appropriate notice.

The law shall specify the term of office and the conditions, restrictions, and prohibitions established for regular Justices, which are not applicable to alternates.

Article 165

Justices of the Supreme Court of Justice may not be suspended, but upon declaration that there is a reason to institute proceedings or for other reasons established by law in the appropriate chapter concerning disciplinary measures. In the latter case, the resolution shall be adopted by the Supreme Court of Justice, doing so by secret vote of no less than two thirds of its full membership.

Article 166

Where not foreseen in this Constitution, the law shall specify the jurisdiction, number, and duration of courts, as well as their powers, the principles on which they shall base their actions and the manner in which they may be held responsible.

Article 167

For discussion and passage of bills of law concerning the organization or functioning of the Judicial Branch, the Legislative Assembly shall consult the Supreme Court of Justice. It shall require a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the Assembly to depart from the views of the Court.