Jameson Molloy | Staff Writer
In a ceremony, held Wednesday evening in the newly renamed Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Duquesne University President Ken Gormley awarded an honorary doctorate of law to retired Justice of the Costa Rican Supreme Court Luis Fernando Solano Carrera.
Shortly afterward, Gormley and Provost David Dausey added their signatures to the Academic Cooperation Agreement, already signed by active Justices of the Costa Rican Supreme Court. The document renewed a decade-old agreement between Duquesne and the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, the significance of which, according to Gormley, “is hard to overstate.”
During his introductory remarks, Gormley explained that Costa Rica is the ideal nation for the university to partner with,because of the country’s political stability and commitment to ecological sustainability.
Professor Emeritus Robert Barker then took the stage to provide some background on the program. Solano approached him in 1995 with an idea for a sort of informal collaboration between the university and the Costa Rican Supreme Court. Over the next few decades, Barker helped to shape the informal collaboration into an official agreement in 2012.
For Duquesne students, the agreement establishes a summer program consisting of a several week stay in Costa Rica in which they work as interns with the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica. Lodged in the home of a Costa Rican family, students have the opportunity to be completely immersed in the country’s culture and get a broader understanding of the legal systems of a country beyond the U.S.
Gormley said that the Academic Cooperation Agreement was one of the first international programs at the Kline School of Law, calling it the “gold standard of a true academic and legal partnership.”
The agreement with Costa Rica opened the door for the development of programs in China, Germany and even Vatican City.
“Many law schools have just summer programs abroad, and often they just take their own professors to go study in Paris and teach American courses. This is truly learning about different legal systems, learning about different cultures and cooperations,” Gormley said.
When the formal part of the ceremony ended, Solano, with the assistance of his son, Fernando, acting as a translator delivered a brief lecture on the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica.
Created in a 1989 amendment to the country’s Constitution, the Constitutional Chamber is a vital element of the Costa Rican judiciary. Solano explained that the chamber has been responsible for determining the constitutionality of laws and regulations pertaining to issues such as health, environment, equality, minority protection, and prison overpopulation.
Since its formal establishment in 2012, five Duquesne students have had the unique opportunity to intern with the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica.
Joseph Lewis, who participated in the program in the summer of 2018, between his second and third year of law school, described the experience as having “opened up doors for me later on.”
During his eight weeks in Costa Rica, Lewis “had the opportunity to work with Olman Rodriguez, who’s the law clerk for the entire judiciary there,” as well as “write a couple of opinions for the board that were actually voted on later.”
Josef Raszewski, Duquesne’s most recent student involved in the program, who returned just two weeks ago, contrasted the Costa Rican and United States legal systems.
“They love to use comparative law… it’s very important to their decisions,” he said
“When I was working on the case, I used a lot of American law to discuss the laws that we were discussing in the case”.
He further explained that he intends to “try to use what I learned down in Costa Rica and understand all these laws at a deeper level, see how they connect, and see how they relate to other bodies of law.”
Offering advice to those interested in participating in the program, Raszewski recommended that students talk to Professor Barker, who is still very much involved with the program. He added that applicants should be ready to work, and not expect the experience to be a vacation.
Despite the rigor of working with the highest court in Costa Rica, Raszewski shared that after his work day was done, he was able to have fun and make friends, explaining that he “thought of [himself] as a citizen… just living and working like anybody else.”
Gormley is proud to have re-signed the agreement and continue Duquesne’s partnership with Costa Rica’s Supreme Court.
“It opened my eyes to understanding that other countries have totally different systems. And that’s something that’s important for students to understand as they enter a global world.”