Despite new systems, lines and crowds continue

The Registro Nacional is flooded with customers, in part because the agency has suspended part of its online service.

Meanwhile, there are crowds in the street at the offices of the foreign ministry where overseas documents are certified.

The Registro Nacional halted its online sale of documents after the Sala IV constitutional court accepted an appeal from the Colegio de Abogados and ordered the Registro to stop charging for the documents. In a press release Friday the Sala IV pointed out that it never said the Registro Nacional should stop dispensing documents. The order was just not to charge a fee. The shutdown was the decision of Registro officials.

The Colegio de Abogados raises the question of whether a public agency should charge for documents that are public record. This has been the case in Costa Rica. When someone needed a personaría juridica showing that they had the right to act on behalf of a registered company, they had two options. A lawyer could be hired to draw up the document for the equivalent of about $20. Or the person or a messenger could stand in line at the various Registro offices and get the same document for a few dollars.

What most people did not know is that for a long time lawyers have had online access to the Registro files. The fancy $20 document printed out by the lawyer was simply boiler plate from the Registro files.

The Registro cut into lawyers’ income in two ways when the site was set up.

First, any citizen could get a copy of a personaría juridica and other Registro documents quickly and during 24 hours of the day seven days a week. Rapid and efficient, the Registro bragged. A.M. Costa Rica reported on this new development HERE in May. That meant less work for lawyers.

Secondly, the Registro expected the lawyers to pay 2,500 colons plus tax for each document just like any other citizen. That is when the Colegio de Abogados filed the constitutional appeal. And that is when the Registro suspended the serviceAug. 1.

The case still is being weighed by the Sala IV magistrates.

The crowds at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto stem from another recent development. Costa Rica adopted an international treaty on the exchange of documentsin February. The treaty just went into effect here.

Under the new system offices in each of the 100 countries that have adopted the treaty affix a certificate that validates the document. Most secretaries of state in the United States have this power. In Costa Rica, the foreign ministry has to validate the incoming document.

This means that foreign documents no longer have to be validated by the Costa Rican consulate in the appropriate country. And the foreign ministry is closing its area for reception of documents at noon despite disgruntled individuals. What was supposed to expedite the use of foreign documents is causing the jam.

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