Explaining the Rise of Accountability Functions of Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court
The previous chapter contrasted the rise of Colombia’s “hyperactive” Constitutional Court with the mixed record of the Argentine Supreme Court and the unquestionable reluctance of Chile’s highest court to routinely exercise its accountability function. Of these three countries, Colombia’s Constitutional Court was clearly the most extreme case of judicial assertiveness. In this chapter, we focus on Costa Rica’s similarly hyperactive Constitutional Chamber of its Supreme Court—the Sala IV—to assess whether the explanation developed for the Colombian Court’s transformation also holds in other cases of highly active courts. All the three cases analyzed in Chapter 3 experienced legal reforms simultaneously with other major institutional changes, such as the promulgation of a new constitution (Colombia), and/or transitions to democratic governance (Chile and Argentina). These simultaneous institutional changes can fog our view of the impact of legal reforms on court behavior. In Costa Rica, on the other hand, the only significant institutional reform was a minor constitutional amendment that created a new chamber within the Supreme Court; all other institutions remained constant. This ceteris paribus situation grants us a very clear picture of court behavior before and after the reforms, allowing us to demonstrate the possible effects of the reforms on the court’s exercise of its accountability functions.
KeywordsJudicial Review Operational Rule Executive Branch Institutional Rule Constitutional Amendment
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