Procedures in the civil and contentious-administrative systems in Spain

The Council of Ministers has approved the referral to Parliament of the Measures to Expedite Procedures Bill.  This will facilitate and streamline the functioning of the Civil Courts and administrative proceedings, two courts systems essential to economic activity.

The Bill introduces reforms aimed mainly at the simplification and elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy and to prevent intentional delay and limit excessive applications to the courts.  These measures have as their principal objective the improvement of the response rate of judges and courts.  Its general context is procedural law reform to achieve a faster, more modern and more efficient system of administering justice.

The effects of improvements introduced will be seen with specific benefits for consumers and for small and medium enterprises as well as improving competition in the market.

Among the measures proposed the following are the most significant:

Civil Justice System

In the Debt Collection Procedure the limit of €250,000 is removed which brings the system in line with Europe.  This has proven effective in debt claims in times of crisis like the one being experienced at present.

A significant change in regard to the Appeals System is the exclusion of the filing of an appeal to oral proceedings where the amount claimed is €6,000 or less.  This makes the decision of the Court of First Instance final.  This will safeguard the right of access to a judge while limiting unnecessary judicial applications and long-running litigious claims  The bill also eliminates the time and expense spent in processing and preparing appeals as the appeals are announced and formalized in one document.

Also of note in relation to the Appeals Process is that the role of the Supreme Court as a guarantor of equality is reinforced as well as its role as a court of Unification of Doctrine by increasing the minimum value  required to lodge an appeal to seek judicial review in both the Contentious Administrative and Civil Courts.  The minimum threshold had remained unaltered for over ten years.  It now changes from €150,000 to €800,000.

Regarding special processes for the protection of credit, Hire Purchase (renting long term with the right to buy) has been added to the Special Procedure regime with regard to the recovery of goods leased, which had already been provided for similar contracts such as Leasing.

Contentious Administration

Significant Modifications have been incorporated to provide for the technical improvement and streamlining of Civil Procedure such as the elimination of unnecessary steps in the evidentiary phase, the possible abolition of the hearing when the parties agree and by providing a more appropriate and clear legal process for interim measures in urgent cases.

The quantative limits required for recourse to the appeal courts have increased, from €150,000 to €800,000.  This incorporates more clearly the appelate interest as a mechanism of excluding appeals.  The speeding up of the system is accomplished in two ways.  Firstly, decisions will be reached in a shorter period and secondly, it frees up the channels of appeal from large volumes of applications allowing them to carry out their functions more quickly.

Finally, in relation to the costs of the Courts of Unique or First Instance, time limits have been incorporated in relation to applications made to the court.  The court or judicial organ may use these time limits to identify seniority when considering the exemption from certain costs when circumstances justify.

Criminal Process

The Measures to Expedite Procedures Bill incorporates certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act which regulates the prosecution of legal entities or legal personalities, such as companies.  This concept had been introduced by reform of the Criminal Code by Organic Law 5/2010 which introduced a regime of criminal responsibility for Legal entities

This article is not considered as legal advice

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