Posts Tagged 'Court’s fees'

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):].

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:  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.

Una frase:

"El tiempo es lo que impide que todo suceda de golpe."


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