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Judges Demand Fair Salaries, Independence From Executive

August 22, 2008

The vast majority of Costa Rica’s judges protested this week to demand the independence of the judicial branch and for fair salaries, citing that their superiors earn up to 60 percent more than they do.

Costa Rican Judiciary Association (Acojud) President Abel Jiménez explained to the news service EFE that this was a “peaceful” and “democratic” protest, in which the judges have been able to keep working while identifying themselves as part of the movement with small banners and Costa Rican flags in the judicial courts and offices.

The Tuesday protest, which also included a small manifestation in the Justice Tribunal courtyards in San José, was incited by a recent pay raise totaling ¢430 million (about $775,000) awarded to 46 Judicial Branch officials, including 22 upper-level judges.

The judges also consider the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to investigate interim judge Rodrigo Sosto a violation of the independence of the national branches of government. Sosto was able to provide private assessments to the Casa Presidencial by means of a legal loophole.

“We are in favor of judicial independence, but not one that does not investigate interim judges who offer assessments (to the executive branch),” stated Jiménez.

“Neither is there transparency in salaries when they raise 46 people’s salaries, representing ¢430 million a year, when we have 10,000 employees,” in the judicial branch, said the judge.

For their part, the Supreme Court justices rejected signed petitions sent by the judges that asked them to investigate Sosto and review the approved salary increases.

“The communication with this rejection is evident,” said Jiménez, who said, “At no time have we judges asked for privileges and we have not wanted to be included in this salary increase that strikes us as disproportionate at the moment.”

“Transparency must be demonstrated with facts, and we don’t believe this has happened in recent days in the court,” concluded the judge, who expressed worries that the salary increase will have consequences in the judicial branch pension funds.

In light of having rejected the judges’ signed petitions, the Supreme Court President Luis Paulino Mora told local media “the doors are open” to dialogue and that he considered that the salary raises were “fair.”

According to Acojud, around 90 percent of its members throughout the country are aligned with the movement.

 

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