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The suspension of all judicial machinery and activity: A headache for courts

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In Confilegal Luis Cortezo analyses the procedural deadlines for all jurisdictional orders due to the health crisis situation

The crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic caused an enormous stir and confusion in the day-to-day running of the judicial system last week. At first there was no certainty about which specific actions could be suspended, and professionals had to manage each of the incidents individually.

Fortunately, the Government, the Permanent Commission of the General Council of the Judiciary and the Secretary of State for Justice have offered a significant degree of clarity on this issue.

Firstly, the Second Additional Provision of Royal Decree 463/2020, declaring the state of alert as a result of the health crisis caused by COVID-19, declares the suspension and interruption of all the deadlines provided for in the procedural laws for all jurisdictional orders.

Therefore, any action that is subject to a time limit (appeals, replies to the lawsuit, declinations, documentary contributions, etc.) before a judicial body will be automatically suspended for the duration of the state of alarm (15 calendar days) except for a more than foreseeable extension.

The effective date of the suspension is that of the publication in the BOE of the Royal Decree, so that the procedural period in question must be calculated until Friday 13th March and must be resumed from the day following the lifting of the state of alarm, today, 28th March.

By way of example, if the first day of the period for lodging an appeal for reconsideration of a given decision (the period of which is 5 working days) had been Wednesday 11th March, 3 working days would have elapsed until the suspension.

The fourth working day of the period would be 30 March (Sunday 28 March is non-working day) and the deadline would be 1 April.

When the suspended period is counted in months, and not in working days, as for example in the period for replying to the demand in patent and trademark matters, the question may be a little more complex.

The time limits in months are counted from date to date.

That is, if the first day of the time limit is March 11, the last day of the two-month time limit would be May 10 (May 11 would be the first day of the third month).

In these cases, the days until the suspension are counted, and after the resumption of the period, the days until the month is reached must be completed, and from then on, the next month is counted from date to date.


A number of exceptions to the suspension of procedural time limits have been established, characterized by the urgency and seriousness of the circumstances relating to the proceedings or dispute in question (habeas corpus, precautionary measures in respect of violence against women, protection of fundamental rights, collective dispute procedures, etc.).

In the final analysis, in order to avoid defencelessness of the administered parties, the competent judge or court is empowered to agree on the practice of any judicial proceedings that are necessary to avoid irreparable damage to the rights of the parties involved in the process.

At the same time, the Permanent Commission of the General Council of the Judiciary agreed on 14th March, in line with what had been previously agreed for the Basque Country, the Community of Madrid, the judicial districts of Haro (La Rioja) and Igualada (Barcelona), and even many courts on their own initiative, the suspension, not only of the deadlines, but of all scheduled legal actions during the state of alarm.

Therefore, all the hearings, legal proceedings and statements scheduled during the state of alarm have been postponed until a new date to be set by the competent court or tribunal.

Only those actions that can be included in the essential services of the Administration of Justice set by the General Council of the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice (through a Resolution of the Secretary of State for Justice) and the State Attorney's Office may be held.

Exceptional measures

There is no doubt that currently the protection of public health deserves all kinds of exceptional measures.

However, the de facto suspension of all judicial machinery and activity is going to be a real headache for the already overcrowded Spanish courts.

For this reason, at this time, measures such as the authorization of the month of August, as provided for in Article 131 of the Law on Civil Procedure, are not ruled out to try to alleviate the havoc that all these suspensions will cause in the Spanish judicial activity.

It was surprising that the competent authorities had not expressed any opinion on the LexNET platform.

The fact that the system had not been closed meant, in practice, that written submissions could be made to the courts.

The Permanent Commission of the General Council of the Judiciary has resolved this situation by means of an agreement dated 18th March 2020, which establishes that while the state of alarm is maintained, the presentation of procedural documents in person will not proceed, and via LexNET only those that have the sole and exclusive purpose of procedural actions declared urgent and cannot be postponed may be presented.

The Commission understands that to ignore these prohibitions and limitations would contradict the purpose of the declaration of a state of alert, insofar as the filing of a pleading would trigger the procedural obligation to provide it, a procedural action which, in accordance with the second additional provision of Royal Decree 463/2020, must be understood to be suspended.

You can see the article in Confilegal

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