Sala IV freezes expat expulsion hearing

In what most certainly is a speed record for the Costa Rica judiciary, the Sala IV responded within 24 hours with a nearly 2,000 word order in the case of two expats being haled before the Talamanca council.

The Sala IV preliminary ruling froze an effort by the Municipalidad de Talamanca to hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon on expat residents Carol Meeds and Philippe Vangoidsenhoven.

As the Sala IV sardonically notes in the Tuesday decision, the pair are accused by the municipality of being environmentalists. The court noted that the municipal council has been trying to declare the pair personas non gratas but that there have been no administrative or jurisdictional procedures to show that they have done anything wrong.

The pair’s lawyer, José María Villalta, had delivered on Monday a Sala IV appeal over the hearing Wednesday, and the court issued the lengthy decision Tuesday afternoon.

Last March 6 the council declared the pair to be unwelcome in the canton. The Sala IV constitutional court quickly reversed that municipal action April 24 and said in passing that the two expats had not been give the right of response.

So the council on a motion by the council president, Carlos Cascante, and the mayor, Melvin Cordero, sought to give them what it called the right to defense. That decision was made June 26 and the hearing was set for Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Both the expats have been active in making many environmental complaints.

The Sala IV noted that in neither case did the municipality make any concrete allegations that could be contested with evidence.  It said the bulk of the allegations consisted of 22 pages of a petition signed by other residents.

The court decision ordered the municipal officials to remit in three days copies of allegations and evidence that might exists about the pair and warned against perjury. In an unusual twist, it said that the declarations have to be made personally by municipal officials and not their lawyers.

So far, the court order said, the municipality’s actions lacked due process.

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