TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN (Spain Watch) – The end of the due process of law in Spain –

Justice will no longer be free for the average Spanish citizen, but only for those clearly sitting below the threshold of poverty. Furthermore, not only won’t it be free, but it will also be unaffordable for most of those “affluent” families whose overall revenues are higher than 1.200 €/month, the top amount to be entitled to litigate for free.

Or at least that’s what the Spanish Government had in mind when drafting the bill aimed at setting up a brand-new court’s fee system [hereby a link to the bill, as published in the Official Gazette (Boletín Oficial del Estado):

http://www.senado.es/legis10/publicaciones/pdf/senado/bocg/BOCG_D_10_114_886.PDF].

The bill has just passed the so called “Higher Chamber” of Parliament (Congreso) and is only pending endorsement by the “Lower Chamber” (Senado), a pure formality bound to take place on November 14th, since the Government party (Partido Popular or “PP” for short) has an overwhelming majority in each of said chambers. Moreover, in order to speed up the enactment of the projected law, not least so as to avoid media exposure as much as possible, the Government have decided to go for the “fast lane” and use the abbreviated procedure, getting their bill passed by the Higher Chamber through a small commission specifically appointed thereby to decide on most legislative matters. It is worth noting that all non – PP Members of Parliament (Diputados) appointed to such commission have left it to protest against the impending reform, with such protest being supported by Bar Associations, Judges, Public Prosecutors and University professors through a number of demonstrations held in front of many courthouses across the country during the last days.

As per the system currently in place, only legal persons – basically corporations – have to pay a fee if they are to introduce a claim or to lodge an appeal before court, but the reform to be brought about by the Government means that: (a) everybody, including natural persons – except for those entitled to free justice -, will have to pay a fee if they are to assert their rights before court; (b) that the fees will be the same, irrespective of the claimant’s income; (c) that the fees will be high enough to deter ordinary people from going to court, or even to make it absolutely unaffordable for them; and (d) that, in contrast to the foregoing, that is not likely to be the case for corporations, thus becoming the only beneficiaries of the purported legal reform.

The new court fee, to be levied all over the country on top of other fees that regional authorities might impose in their local jurisdictions, consists of a fixed amount plus an additional sum to be determined as a percentage of the amount involved in the lawsuit. In the case of ordinary lawsuits, such as a consumer filing a small claim against a company for a faulty product, the court fee floor will be 200€; if it is challenging a fine before court, in most of the cases the fee will be not less than 400€. In both situations, the amount of the concerned fees is likely to be as much as the money involved in the potential claims. It follows easily that the new system will be the end of consumers’ or citizens´ court protection in most of their day to day conflicts. But when it comes to labour law it’s even worse: challenging an unfair dismissal in the first instance is not subject to fees, but if the ex-employee is to lodge an appeal against the first instance court decision, the fee to be paid will be 500€ plus 0,5% of the amount claimed as a legal compensation for the unfair dismissal, which, in practice, means that right to appeal will be money-barred for most redundant workers, whose number is ever-increasing in Spain. Mind you, the said fees are, obviously, additional to the solicitor’s, counsel’s and expert’s fees

To give a final flavour of how outrageous this impending legal reform is, I will refer to the real case of a driver left paralyzed as a result of a road accident. The amount sought as a compensation for the injuries sustained and their severe after-effects, including the need for permanent assistance forever, adds up to 1.300.000€. Well, according to the court fee system to come into place very shortly, the overall amount of the fees to be paid by this gentleman if he has to go to court up to the Supreme Court – which is not unlikely given the amounts at stake – will be 19.550€. This is the same amount a millionaire or a multinational would pay as court fees in a case where the same kind of money was involved. But here and now there is a real person behind these figures, and it is someone who is not entitled to free justice, as his family earned 1.600€/month overall, and who is very close to financial collapse because the cost of the permanent help he needs is ten times as much as the illness allowance he is receiving from the national health insurance system (Seguridad Social). The only alternatives for him are organizing a charity collection or accepting whatever the insurance company will condescend to offer to him. No doubt the new law will be a bargain for banks, insurance companies, service providers and all sorts of powerful entities. This case is real, it is being handled by the lawyer José Miguel Caride Domínguez, anyone can check on this information [hereby a link to the Ourense’s Bar Association web site:  http://www.icaourense.org/index.php?option=com_peoplebook&func=searchstaff  showing the name and details of the said lawyer].

The above goes to show that the purported new court fee system is tantamount to the end of the due process of law in Spain. To put it bluntly: anything slightly resembling effective court protection is being taken away from ordinary people in this country. The contemplated bill is clearly unconstitutional, but it will take years before our Constitutional Tribunal decide on the case, and in the meantime large corporations will have made their pile, even more so than they’re doing right now, at the expense of the average citizen.

Dramatic as the foregoing may be, it is not but another milestone of Spain’s current trend towards the systematic destruction of what has been considered as basic citizen’s rights so far. By the looks of it, we’re relentlessly drifting towards some form of “soft dictatorship”.

Spain is a stunning country. The meeting point of many influential cultures throughout History, it is a lively, extremely complex country with unparalleled contrasts and an overwhelming cultural legacy. As a result of the recession, our country is currently feeding other better-doing economies with well trained, talented professionals. There is much more to Spain than just good food and nice beaches. I’m afraid there’s not much you, people from overseas countries who may be reading this, can do for us, but at least I want you to be aware of what’s going on in Spain. I hope I will get back to you with more details on all of this.

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6 Responses to “TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN (Spain Watch) – The end of the due process of law in Spain –”


  1. 1 JotaEle 12 noviembre 2012 en 12:24

    Cuando aprueben las nuevas tasas judiciales los conflictos los volveremos a dirimir a hostias. Barato y eficaz.

    Mgaussage en twitter

    • 2 José Ignacio 13 noviembre 2012 en 12:44

      Si es así supongo que, consecuente con esa “desregulación”, el Gobierno suprimirá también los antidisturbios. En cualquier caso, cuando vuelvas por estos lares traete ya los guantes de boxeo, porque las tasas se aprueban esta semana.

      • 3 101945 19 noviembre 2012 en 9:30

        Dear Jose,

        I don’t agree with te last paragraph since we ” from other or overseas places” are in the same or even ”in some specific issues” worse situation than yours and I mean Spain, I am sure that you follow what happens here with our politicians that brought ”prosperity” on lended money not to mention that people also participated in the ”big party” all those last 40years , by creating special ”benefits” for those working in the public sector having more than a 1million employees (with 10 milion citizens) i.e. 10% of the population is working for the Goverment, and noe the privat sector is paying the bill just because the politicans don’t want to touch ”the clientelle” that votes for them, so first don’t believe what you see/hear for tthe Greek crisis, it is completely different than yours but the bottom line is the same, people that did not participate in the ”last 36 years party” are now paying the bill,

        Corldially
        Nick

      • 4 José Ignacio 11 diciembre 2012 en 8:21

        Hi there! I’m sorry about my delay in replying to your comment, but, considering we have been in touch by e-mail, I think it is not so serious after all.

        I would only like to add this to our discussion: If someone is such an insistent patient that they get their Doctor to prescribe them the wrong medicine that leaves them handicapped for life, how do we share our liabilities for that malpractice? I would say the patient should not bear more than, let’s say, a 10% liability at the most, while the Doctor should bear the remaining 90%. Indeed, the Doctor is supposed to be a professional who knows what to do and can cope with their patients’ demands.

        Ok, in my view the same princple applies to banks. No matter how irresponsible banks’s clients have been asking for far more credit than they coul repay. Banks are the first ones to be blamed for the situation we are in, as they are the ones which are supposed to be able to evaluate their clientes and the financial environment. They were very happy to give credit indiscriminately because they were hoping to make their pile out of that policy. If the outcome of their actions have been a global financial collapse, they’re the first ones to blame and people should not be paying for their reckless behaviour while the decision-makers are getting away with it, “riding towards the sunset” while they wipe the dirt out of their hands. If what has been left of a bank cannot stand by itself and it needs to be butressed by the State, that bank should be wound up or nationalized and their former managers taken to civil or criminal court.

        Kind regards,

        JI

  2. 5 Alvaro 21 diciembre 2012 en 0:24

    Hello, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this article. It was practical.
    Keep on posting!


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