COSTA RICA BLOG –  The recent dismissal of Judge Oscar Gonzalez Comacho as a Civil Court Judge, with over twenty years of service with the Judicial Branch of the Costa Rican Government by a vote in the Legislative Assembly, raises some very important legal issues.

Judge Gonzalez is alleged to have raped a subordinate female judge colleague with whom he had had a prior consensual relationship. He is yet to be tried on the charges in a Court of Law and according to the Rules of Evidence.  Instead, with the Court case pending, the matter was referred by the Costa Rica Constitutional Court (Sala IV) to the Legislative Assembly to be debated and voted upon regarding his dismissal as a Judge based on the alleged allegations of rape.

This Assembly debate and vote took place last week, with the legislators each taking a turn at “character-bashing” of the Judge, followed by a vote where 100% of the legislators present voted to dismiss Judge Gonzalez from the Court, without his having any right to receive a pension. This debate and vote took place while the Judge was lawfully admitted to the National Psychiatric Hospital and without him being given any right of reply, or to defend himself in any way.

In a Democratic country such as Costa Rica, that supposedly respects the Rule of Law, this course of conduct, in my opinion, is both an abrogation by the Constitutional Court of its responsibility to allow the ordinary course of justice to prevail and a travesty of the Judicial System as a whole, in not providing the basic right of a defense to the accused, especially in the circumstances in which he was found to be.

Judge Gonzalez may in-fact be guilty as charged, but this is yet to be determined by a Court of Law, according to the Rules of Evidence, and not by a debate and vote in the Legislative Assembly. The Rape charges do not arise from some random act with an unknown party, but with a party with whom the Judge had had a prior consensual relationship.

This certainly begs the question as to whether this possibly could be a charge arising out of the vengeance of a scorned woman. To date, there is no reliable evidence received in a Court of Law on which to base the Judge’s guilt, or innocence. The only thing the Judge has been found guilty of following the Legislature’s debate and vote, is that in the view of the legislators and knowing that their political careers would be in serious jeopardy if they showed publicly any support for the Judge, he is of bad character, which is not a crime.

The Judge is entitled to his day in Court, to have a full Trial, a right to make a full reply, and with a judgment rendered by the Court on his guilt, or innocence based on the evidence received according to the Rules of Evidence. Following such a Trial and the Judge is found guilty, that will end the matter, subject to any right of Appeal which may exist.

Should the Judge be absolved of guilt following a Trial, the Judge will most certainly be able to sue the State for his pension and for damages for the injury to his character arising from the Judicial Branch having followed such an unorthodox and dubious procedure to procure his dismissal.

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Richard Philps
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking with the Law Firm of Petersen & Philps, located in Escazu, a western suburb of San Jose. To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney, please use the following information: Lic. Rick Philps - Attorney at Law, Petersen & Philps, San Jose, Costa Rica Tel: 506-2288-4381, Ext. 102; Email: rick@costaricacanadalaw.com Website: www.costaricacanadalaw.com