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INSIDECOSTARICA.COM | COSTA RICA  NEWS |   Tuesday 15 November 2011

Costa Rica: All Aspiring Judges Flunk Basic Law Test

With high hopes, the Judicial Branch gave a basic law test to 162 lawyers, aspirants applying for 32 places in a course to prepare future judges for their duties. The results couldn't have been more disappointing.

All failed the test last June and the course was canceled. The aspirants came from several universities, public and private.

Supreme Court Magistrate Orlando Aguirre was appalled. "This demonstrates that the Court is attracting a human resource that doesn't have a good university grounding," he said. He has a right to be worried: he heads a committee charged with ensuring quality of judges.

The test was administered last June 27, reported the newspaper La Nacion and was developed to counter criticism that young judges lacked proper grounding in the nation's laws. If any had passed, they would have gone on to a year's extra training.

The training program has had its problems. Only 16 of the 211 lawyers taking the exam in 2010 scored above the minimum of 70 necessary to enter the course. So, they resorted to a familiar ploy to fill out the rest of the 25 students necessary for the course -- they graded on a curve.

Marivin Carvajal, director of the judicial training school, noted that last year after the six-hour test, examiners had been setting the bar at a score of 78 but the highest scorer was 77.01 and only 16 scored more than 70 points.

Worse, the lowest score turned out to be 35.26. Carvajal noted that the overall results "were very bad and very worrying." But the lawyers scored worst in the section requiring knowledge of the law.

Judge Carvajal told La Nacion that 181 lawyers took a makeup exam on Oct. 10 but the results of that one are not in yet. He added that despite the financial sacrifice the Supreme Court had made to train future judges, the candidate quality is not up to requirements and they show deficiencies.

Analysis: Although many North American expatriates view the court system here with suspicion because the judges are not elected but chosen by the courts themselves, it is obvious the the Judicial Branch here is trying its best to bolster up the system.

Certainly, a system that tries this hard to screen their prospective jurists is trying to assure that justice in this country is on a higher plane. U.S. expatriates will remember their ballots in which they blindly mark an incumbent judge's name because it is familiar without knowing the capacities of any of the judicial candidates.

Here, new judges are chosen by other judges. They don't always get it right and some of the inept or dishonest slip through, but sitting judges have a better chance to know qualifications of the candidates.

As for the aspirants for admission to the course, presumably they have the chance to bone up on the law and retake the exam. But they'll be the judges of that...

By Rod Hughes ,


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