The laws of Costa Rica vary. We have civil laws, family laws, labor, criminal, agrarian laws; you name it! We have all types of Costa Rican laws! However, there is only one jurisdiction. Etymologically, the term comes from the Latin term “Iuris Dicto” or “Ius Dicere.” In layman´s terms, it translates to “the act of saying the law.” Jurisdiction is the power of Judges to resolve cases under the country´s boundaries. It works like this: an impartial judge resolves the legal matter brought by litigation, with a final resolution that produces “res judicata.”
Jurisdiction is the power and duty they have to administer justice. Therefore, jurisdiction in Costa Rica refers to the authority of the Costa Rican judges to hear and decide cases. Jurisdiction is given to judges when they are invested as such, and thus lose jurisdiction when they cease to be Judges. Jurisdiction in Costa Rica is only one: the power that the judges have in this country to administer justice, per the laws in Costa Rica.
Having said this, when you hear lawyers talk about the civil jurisdiction, or the family jurisdiction, or say the criminal or corporate jurisdiction, WE are simply talking about the different branches of laws in Costa Rica. Even though we clearly understand, under the definition, that jurisdiction refers to Judges, specifically to the power they have to resolve cases brought before them. We are not referring to “The Dukes of Hazard” traveling across State lines to other “jurisdictions”, with the police behind them.
It’s worth noting that Costa Rica has also signed international treaties and conventions that give jurisdiction to some courts in Costa Rica to rule over specific cases, such as human rights violations and international commercial disputes. These courts however, are international in nature, and therefore the Jurisdiction these Judges have, fall under a totally different category.
The courts in Costa Rica are specialized per the subject matter they address. As such we have labor courts, civil courts, penal, family and administrative courts, and many more. Even though Judges have Jurisdiction, this does not mean that the civil law judge can resolve matters that are the subject matter of the penal judge.
Even though they both have Jurisdiction (since they are Judges), the civil judge can´t resolve criminal matters, because he lacks specialized “subject-matter competency.” This means, that the civil judge, is competent only to resolve civil matter disputes, in use of his jurisdiction.
Arbitrators are not Judges. However, they do have jurisdiction over legal matters when an arbitral clause is stipulated in a contract. In such instances, both parties have agreed to whisk the conflict out of the ordinary courts and into private arbitration. The ruling given by the arbitrators is final, as they have jurisdiction over that specific arbitral proceeding.
Dr. Christopher Pirie.