Justice Richard D. Aldrich (Joan), Westlake Village, CA
Justice Jay R. Ballantyne (Elaine), Visalia, CA
Judge Henry J. Broderick (Mary Jo), Tiburon, CA
Judge Vernon G. Foster (Ines), Redondo Beach, CA
Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. (Jean), St. Paul, MN
Judge William B. Keene (Pat), Manhattan Beach, CA
Judge James G. Kolts (Dorothy), Altadena, CA
Judge Bonnie Lee Martin (Art), Los Angeles, CA
Judge Byron K. McMillan (Carol), Santa Ana, CA
Judge John R. Stanton (Meredith), Long Beach, CA
Judge Hugh Stuart (Virginia), Omaha, NE
Mrs. Marjorie Love, Houston, TX
Executive Secretary Diane Bowen, Los Angeles, CA

SATURDAY:Academy members arrived in San Jose in the evening and were met by the tour guide, Katia Valverde, for transfer to the Melia Cariari Resort Hotel.  The name Costa Rica means “rich coast.”  Peace is Costa Rica’s most valued feature.  Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas, with no need for a militia which was abolished in 1948.  The civil and rural guard are sufficient to assure the protection of citizens and visitors.  In 1987 former President Dr. Oscar Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to broker peace in Central America.

SUNDAY: In the morning the group began its visit to San Jose with a city tour.  San Jose is in the Central Valley and is the headquarters for government, financial and economic offices.  The city is a blend of modern skyscrapers and classic architecture.  Academy members visited the Gold Museum which houses a collection of pre-Columbian gold objects.  Lunch was at the Britania Boutique Hotel and then the group enjoyed sightseeing before returning to the hotel which was located approximately 45 minutes outside San Jose amid over 300,000 acres of coffee plantations, Costa Rica’s main export.  The resort hotel offered a golf course and tennis courts, Olympic-sized pool and tropical gardens.  The Welcome Dinner was held in the evening and the members were presented with silver trays to commemorate the 1999 trip of the “trail” judges.

MONDAY:Academy members attended judicial visits in the Circuito Judicial, the plaza containing the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court), the Plaza de la Justicia (OIJ) and the Tribunales de Justicia (trial courts).  The group was met by Licda. Ana Lúcia Vásquez Rivera and Ana Yancy Eśpinoza, from the Depto. De Información Y Relaaciones Públicas, Proyectos Especiales of the Poder Judicial.

The Costa Rican judicial system was established in 1821 by a tribunal to administer justice according to the “Leyes de Indias,” which were a mixed group of laws that combined both Indian and Spanish regulations during Costa Rica’s early “colonial period.”  In 1876 a new Constitution was adopted which established the Judicial System with three superior court judges and other minor tribunals.  Today, the Judicial System has 22 Magistrados (the highest Supreme Court Justices) with tribunals all around the country and more than 6,000 employees.

The Judicial System of Costa Rica is defined in the Political Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica, Title XI.  It provides for a Judicial Branch of government to “hear civil, criminal, commercial, labor and administrative-litigation cases, . . . regardless of the nature or the status of the persons involved; enter final resolutions thereon and execute the judgments entered, with the assistance of law enforcement forces.”  

The government is divided into three “powers”: 

(1) The Ambito Judicial which is the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court), Tribunales (Superior Courts), Juzgados (Courts) and Juzgados de Menor Cuantía y Contravencionales (Lower Courts); 

(2) The Administrativo is the Consejo Superior (Superior Council), the Consejo de la Judicatura (Judicature Council), Dirección Ejecutiva (Judicial Inspecton Tribunal), Depto. dé Proveeduría (Department of Information and Public Relations) and Depto. Servicios Generales (Personnel Department); and

(3) The Auxiliar de Justica, are departments which support the administration of justice: the Criminal Investigation Bureau (OIJ), the Escuela Judicial (Judicial School), the Defensores Público (Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Department), the Digesto de Jurisprudencia Archivo (Jurisprudence Information Electronic Center), and the Registro Judicial (Judicial Registry).

There are seven official judicial districts in Costa Rica and they are located in the Providences of San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón.

The Supreme Court of Justice is the court of “highest hierarchy” in the country. The Supreme Court is divided into four chambers: The Sala Primera which hears matters involving civil, administrative, agriculture and commercial, the Sala Seguda, employment and family law, the Sala Tercera, penal matters and the Sala Constitucional, constitutional matters. The Supreme Court has 22 Magistrados who sit seven in the Sala Constitucional and five each in the other chambers. The Magistratos are nominated and elected by the Legislative Assembly (Congress) for terms of eight years.  They must be Costa Rican by birth or by naturalization with a residence in the country for no less than ten years after obtaining the appropriate naturalization certificate.  However, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is required to be Costa Rican by birth and over 35 years of age.  The Magistrados are the highest judicial officials in Costa Rica.

Cases in the tribunals are heard by three-judge panels.  There are no jury trials.  Cases can be appealed to the higher chamber and all Magistrados in the higher chamber hear the appeal.  An appeal to the Supremacía Constitucional can be presented in writing and persons appealing do not have to have an attorney.  The Sala Constitucional is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for people to file appeals.  In 1997, 8,901 appeals were filed in the court and 8,851 appeals were decided.

Academy members were taken into several courtrooms to watch proceedings in progress; one trial was of a man who had beaten his two-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.  The three judges were questioning the witness/grandmother of the children.  The court reporter was using tape-recording equipment and all the judges were taking notes.  The penalty for this crime can be 4-10 years in prison.

The Academy members next visited the OIJ museum where there was a display of weapons, forensic evidence, fetuses (abortions are illegal in Costa Rica) and various other “origen del organismo.”  The Organismo de Investigación Judicial was created in 1973.  “It is a Public Institution which depends on the Supreme Court and its services are free.  The main function . . . is to be a repressive police, which means that it acts investigating any crime after it happens . . . [and is] an assistant to Penal Courts and the Attorney General’s office, discovering and verifying in a scientific way the crimes and who is involved in them.”  It has a criminal investigation department which “assists the Courts in finding, notifying and arresting any person they order to, after there is no other way to make or attend the call from the judicial system.”  There is also a legal medicine department which answers “any forensic questions related to medicine in cases that are under investigation.”

Academy President Vern Foster presented Ana Lucia and Ana Yancy with silver trays to commemorate the Academy’s visit.  Members enjoyed lunch at the Bougainvillea Boutique Hotel and thereafter toured the National Theater, a three-level auditorium in the classic style of a 19th century European opera house, with gold-laminated ornaments and candelabra of crystal and bronze, inaugurated in 1897.

Later in the afternoon the Academy visited the Universidad de Costa Rica School of Law and met with Decana Mária Antoineta Sáenz , Henry Issa El Khoury, the Director of Docency and Francisco Wu Lin, the President of the Law Students Association, who interpreted for the Academy.  The University was founded in 1843 and the los estudios juŕidicos was started in 1983 and specializes in post-graduate studies in criminal, commercial, public and agricultural law courses.   The course of law study takes five years.  Tribunals of instructors and professors give oral exams at the end of the courses, in addition to written and essay exams.

Students who are citizens of Costa Rica pay about $200 per semester for tuition and 50% of these students have a fellowship to help them.  Students from other countries pay approximately $600-$700 per semester in tuition.  The Academy was given a tour of the library and computer  rooms.  The University does not have modern computer equipment and does not have internet access for Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw.  There is a computer program called Master-Lex of Costa Rica but access is limited since the law school has over 1,400 students.  The library houses 60,000 titles but students are only given access if they are working on a thesis.  Fifteen Presidents of the Corte Supreme de Justcia have been graduates of this University.

The Academy presented Dean Sáenz with a check for $1,000 as a donation to the law school.

TUESDAY: The group left in the morning to visit the Poas Volcano.  The crater is 8,882 feet high, one mile wide and 985 feet deep.  From there the group visited Sarchi Village, famous for ox cart and furniture factories, Grecia Township and Alejuela City, and took a tour of Heredia’s Cafe Britt and Coffee Plantation, sampling coffee and watching a folkloric dance. Dinner was at the Chicote Restaurant.

WEDNESDAY: In the morning the Academy toured Braulio Carrillo National Park and enjoyed the unusual experience of a jungle aerial tram ride (in the rain) to see the rain forest flora and fauna from a unique aerial view.

In the afternoon Academy judges returned to the Corte Suprema de Justicia to meet with judges Lic. Oscar Corrales Valverde, 1st Vice-Presidente; Lic. Ronaldo Hernández, 2nd Vice-Presidente; Lic. Abel Gustavo Jiménez Obando, Juez [judge of] Civil; and Lic. Cristina Víguez, Juez [administrative judge] Contenuiso Administ.  They are all members of the Asociación Costarricense de la Judicatura (Union of Costa Rican Judges) which was formed just six years ago to “fortify the democracy process in the country.”  The Asociación has grown to include nearly 600 judges from the legal and education systems.  Their goal is to provide “the best administration of justice in the country.”  The Asociación is affiliated with a national association, Latin America Federation of Judges.  The Academy’s guide, Katia, interpreted the meeting.

Juez Cristina Viguez spoke briefly, explaining that she is involved in everything related to the state, such as a Federal judge (constitutional court).  In the tribunale where she works there are nine judges, and nine judges in the court of first instance. She will “try to stop members of parliament when they are trying to use more powers than the powers given by the Constitution.”
Juez Oscar Corrales Valverde is involved in the civil and commercial law courts and has been working as a judge for 24 years; he is “very interested in the formation of the judges’ association and the judicial system.”  Juez Ronaldo Hernández also works in the constitutional court with 17 other judges; they have a total of 125,000 cases.  Cases in his section “seem to go with inflation.  If there is more inflation they have more work, and vise-versa.”  The judges’ association is trying to change the civil law because they want “to do it more like the United States,” they believe they need more up-to-date technology to make Costa Rica a better system.

The judges were presented with commemorative trays by Academy President Vern Foster and then the Academy enjoyed a small reception hosted by the Costa Rican judges.

THURSDAY: The Academy members departed for a short flight to the Carribean Coast and Tortuguero National Park.  After arriving at the Jungle Lodge for breakfast, the group took a boat tour, in the rain, of the Tortuguero Canals.  Costa Rica is 19,700 square miles and 25% of its territory is protected in national parks or wildlife refuges.  There are more monkeys, sea turtles and butterflies than people.  There are 10,000 varieties of plants, of which 1,200 are orchids.  There are 1,240 species of butterflies and 845 species of birds (the Quetzel is one of the most famous and our group was lucky enough to see one sitting on a power line along the highway).  Costa Rica has animals from 205 mammal classifications, 160 amphibian categories, 218 types of reptiles and 1,013 varieties of fresh and saltwater fish.  Even in the rain the group was lucky enough to spot several types of wildlife.

In the afternoon members went by boat into the village and learned that Tortuguero beaches are famous for the giant Green Turtles which nest their eggs in the sand July through September. 

FRIDAY: The group left the Jungle Lodge via boat to cruise along the main canal on this warm and sunny day, and on the shore observed monkeys, crocodiles, iguana, and numerous birds.

After lunch the group arrived in Turrialba at the Casa Turire which is located next to the rushing Reventazón River with vistas of scenic green mountains and surrounded by a coffee, sugar cane and macadamia working plantation.  The group enjoyed dinner at the hotel.

SATURDAY: In the morning the group went sightseeing in the area, visiting a cathedral in the town of Cartago and the Lankaster Botanical Gardens in the Orosi Valley.  The gardens were founded in 1950 by a British naturalist Charles H. Lankester.  In 1973 it was acquired by the American Orchid Society and the Stanley Smith Foundation of England in order to present it to the Universidad de Costa Rica.  The garden is internationally recognized for its collection of epiphytes, the most outstanding being orchids.  The group enjoyed lunch at La Casona del Cafetal in the countryside and then visited the Ujarras Colonial Ruins. 


The annual business meeting was held at 5:00 p.m. in the conference room at Casa Turire, Turrialba.  All members were in attendance.

The minutes of the 1998 meeting held in Athens, Greece, the Greek Isles and Istanbul, Turkey were approved as written.

The Treasurer’s report submitted by Judge Keene showed $3,759.54 on hand at the 1998  business meeting, income of $8,969.54, expenses of $4,323.64 with a balance on hand this date of $4,645.90. The delinquent dues report was presented.  There were 11 members who did not pay 1999 dues, and 4 members who did not pay 1998 dues.  Motion by Judge Keene to drop the 4 members who have not paid dues for 1998 and 1999, second by Judge Ballantyne, passed.  There were no pending nominations.  Judge Martin nominated for membership Eugene Lynch of San Francisco, second by Judge Ballantyne, passed.  Judge Foster nominated Jaime Corral from the Alhambra Superior Court, second by Judge Stanton, passed.  Membership was discussed and  it was noted that the Academy should concentrate on taking in more non-California members.

The $1,000 donation to the Universidad de Costa Rica School of Law was approved, leaving a balance in the scholarship fund of $365.  Donations will be solicited during the collection of dues.

Judge Keene, chair of the nominating committee, presented the slate of officers for 2000: Judge Richard Aldrich was nominated for President, the 2001 President-elect position shall remain open, Judge Byron McMillan was nominated for Chancellor, and Judge William Keene was nominated to continue as Secretary-Treasurer.  Motion to move the nominations closed by Judge Broderick.  Second by Judge Stanton, the officers were unanimously elected.

Judge Aldrich asked for ideas for the 2000 meeting, and suggested a fall foliage cruise to New England and Canada.  It was noted the Academy took that trip in 1992 and members indicated a preference for an Alaskan cruise.  SECRETARY’S NOTE: Judge Aldrich is finalizing the itinerary for an Alaskan cruise scheduled for the first and second week of September, after Labor Day.  A trip proposal is being prepared and will be sent to members shortly.

A gratuity of $400 for Katia (tour guide) and $200 for Henri (bus driver) was approved by the members; $25 per person was collected.

At 6:30 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.  Members enjoyed a group dinner at the hotel.

SUNDAY: In the morning members visited the Guayabo National Park and hiked the trials until they came to Indian ruins, some of the oldest in Costa Rica.  There were orchids and flowers in the forest and the bird watchers (spotters) in the group enjoyed seeing several species as the weather was mild and sunny.  

MONDAY: In the morning the group began the ride up the Tilaran Mountain Range to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, for a late arrival at the Sapo Dorado Hotel.  Along the roads numerous monkeys were seen in trees and the famous Quetzal was spotted.

TUESDAY: The group visited the Cloud Forest Reserve which has earned fame as one of the most outstanding wildlife sanctuaries in the New World tropics.  The preserve supports over 100 species of mammals, including Jaguar, Ocelot, Baird’s Tapir [which we were not lucky enough to observe!], 400 species of birds, 120 amphibians and reptiles and 2,500 species of plants.  Members hiked along a trail which ended in a spectacular waterfall.  After the hike the group visited the Hummingbird Gallery.  Lunch was followed by a visit to the Butterfly Garden, including the nature center.  One of the most beautiful butterflies found in Costa Rica is the Blue Morph, a very large bright blue butterfly, which the group observed several times during the trip. Costa Rica exports butterfly cocoons all over the world.  A group dinner was at the hotel in the evening.

WEDNESDAY: The group departed for the ride to Arenal Volcano National Park and a two night stay at the Tabacon Lodge.  The Arenal Volcano had been erupting several weeks before the Academy visited, and continued to do so.  Several members were awakened in the night by the sound of thunder which turned out to be eruptions.  Those who got up were lucky enough to observe lava flows down the volcano’s sides.  In the afternoon several members visited the Tabacon Spa for a swim in one of the hot mineral springs, water falls and 12 mineral pools.  While sitting in the hot springs, drinking cocktails at the swim-up bar, we observed the lava flows down Arenal Volcano.  A group dinner was held at the Ave del Paraíso (Bird of Paradise) Restaurant.

THURSDAY: In the morning the group took a nature hike of the volcano flank.  Arenal is located in north-central Costa Rica in a small agricultural community.  “Arenal announced its presence in 1968, blowing its top and showering an unsuspecting populance with boulders and ash, and releasing rivers of lava and cut swaths of destruction.  Two villages were destroyed and 78 people were killed during three days of intense activity that darkened the sky with ash and sent giant rocks crashing to earth as far as a mile away.  Before the fateful blast, Arenal was considered by most to be merely another mountain, cone-shaped but heavily forested and certainly posing no threat.  In the years since, the menacing volcano — now easily discernible as such, with largely barren slopes and an ever-present halo of steam — has maintained its presence with frequent reminders of its volatility, some mere tremors but others full-scale eruptions.  Only last year the region was evacuated in anticipation of a major eruption which occurred on cue, shaking things up and pouring lava dangerously close to the area’s most popular hotel [Tabacon Lodge].”

In the afternoon members visited La Fortuna, the quaint picturesque town near Arenal Volcano, and enjoyed shopping in the local stores.  A group dinner was at the La Cascada Restaurant in La Fortuna.

FRIDAY: The group departed for the ride to San Jose, stopping en route in the town of Zarcero, and enjoyed lunch at Rancho Ceci, en route to the Melia Cariari once again.  The afternoon was free for last minute shopping and packing and in the evening the group enjoyed the Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner at the Hotel.  The dinner was attended by the Tour Guide, Katia and her husband, and Henri the bus driver and his wife, as guests of the Academy.  Judge Foster and Ines were presented with a wooden carving of a sloth (a Costa Rican small animal) to thank them for all their work hosting the trip.

SATURDAY: Some members departed for the United States and some members continued to stay in Costa Rica for several days of golf.

Written By Diane Z. Bowen, Executive Secretary

Vernon G. Foster, President

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