Costa Rica: Understanding Variations in Compliance with Constitutional Court decisions (Chapter 4)
In Langford, et al., Enforcement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Judgments, Cambridge University Press, 2013, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2012 Last revised: 13 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2012
While a great deal is known about the creation of the Sala IV, how and why it became active, and the nature of its jurisprudence, little is known about the central question posed in this book: Under what conditions do court-mandated ESC rights decisions stick? This chapter examines this question by first detailing the transformation of the Costa Rican superior court system into one of the most assertive courts in the Americas, routinely deciding constitutional and rights-based cases. The following sections briefly examine the rapid expansion of the Court’s caseload during its first twenty years of operation, while the body of the chapter addresses the book’s central questions: What happens once a court makes a favourable ruling on ESC rights? Are its orders implemented or ignored by the government and other State and non-State actors? And which factors help, hurt, or hinder compliance with those decisions? We use new, preliminary data from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court to examine which institutions generally comply with court orders and which ones fail to comply, and which types of ruling are more likely to be complied with. We also examine some specific successful ESC rights cases to tease out the conditions under which they are likely to be met with compliance or resistance by the defendant institutions. The cases help illuminate the positive impact some of these cases have had on the individual litigants and reveal the extent to which they have mitigated inequality and social injustice in Costa Rica. The final sections of the chapter examine the empirical evidence of the compliance or non-compliance with the Costa Rican Constitutional Court’s ESC rights decisions.
Keywords: Courts, Constitutions, compliance, jurisprudence, Costa Rica, economic and social rights
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