The new government measures for the recovery of judicial activity

The new regulations will allow judicial activity that had been suspended by COVID-19

On April 28th, the Council of Ministers approved Royal Decree-Law 16/2020 by which the Administration of Justice will deal with the Coronavirus. The purpose of this new regulation is the return to activity of those courts or tribunals that had stopped their activity during confinement to safeguard the health of their lawyers.

Firstly, the legislation includes five blocks of organizational, procedural and occupational safety measures that will deal with judicial matters that have been increased by the pandemic. The first of these includes occupational safety measures that establish the limitations to be taken into account in said organizations during the validity of the state of alarm.

  • To guarantee the safety distance and avoid concentrations of personnel, the possibility of establishing two work shifts in the morning and afternoon is regulated.
  • Customer service will be by phone or email and only if necessary, in person, but always by appointment.
  • The procedural acts and the deliberations will be preferably with a telematic presence, except in the criminal sphere, where the judge will decide. The physical presence of the accused in serious crimes will always be necessary.
  • It is allowed to order public access to the view rooms according to their characteristics and size.
  • Lawyers will be excused from wearing gowns
  • Examinations by forensic doctors, whenever possible, will be made in view of medical documentation.

Regarding the recovery of judicial activity, a series of criteria have been established:

  • Possibility of turning judicial organs, in whole or in part, into organs temporarily associated with matters arising from the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Authorization, in the areas in which they are unfit, of the days between August 11th and 31st.
  • Allow that the Territorial Appointment Judges (career judges who act as reinforcement or fill vacancies and absences in courts and tribunals) can be assigned preferably to matters arising from the pandemic
  • To enable the lawyers of the administration of Justice in practice, those who have approved the opposition, but have not yet joined the courts as holders, to carry out substitution and reinforcement tasks.
  • Possibility that the officials of each court, tribunal or prosecutor's office carry out their functions in another unit of the same locality and the same jurisdictional order.

In addition, a series of measures for digital transformation have been included, which include the following aspects:

  • Enable and improve the use of digital signature and identification systems in the administration of Justice.
  • Establish a general obligation for both the Ministry of Justice and the autonomous communities with competences in the matter of guaranteeing that the procedural management systems of the courts and tribunals of all the autonomous communities allow teleworking.

The fourth block of measures is made up of those that will allow the resolution of confusions caused by the alarm state and the attention to certain matters:

  • The procedural deadlines that would have been suspended with the declaration of the alarm status will start their computation from scratch. If they are deadlines for filing appeals, they are extended for a period equal to that provided by law.
  • A special, preferential and summary procedure is regulated for family issues arising from the pandemic related to regimes of visits or shared custody not enjoyed, as well as adjustments to pensions for parents in situations of vulnerability by the Covid-19.
  • Temporary Employment Regulation (ERTE) files: it is allowed that those who do not reach the thresholds of collective dismissal can be governed by a simpler and faster process such as that of collective conflict, without depriving the worker of the right to contest it in a manner individual.
  • A provision is introduced so that the Civil Registry does not have to process again the marriage files already processed and suspended by confinement. It is that people who have planned their wedding and have not been able to celebrate it do not face further delays.
  • Preference will be given to four types of actions: those that have to do with the protection of minors; cases in which a financial institution or lessor does not recognize the moratorium on mortgages or rental agreements; the appeals against the administrations for the denial of aid to alleviate the economic effects of the Covid-19, and labor issues related to dismissals or termination of employment contracts and those derived from the recovery of hours of work not provided during the paid leave established during the crisis.

Finally, the fifth block will face the increase in insolvency proceedings and all those matters of the commercial field:

  • During the year following the declaration of the state of alarm, the company or bankrupt self-employed may present a proposal for modification of the bankruptcy agreement that was in breach period.
  • The debtor's duty that he had an agreement signed with the creditors and that foreseeably cannot be fulfilled, is postponed for a year from the declaration of the state of alarm, whenever he presents a proposal to modify the agreement.
  • Debtors with an approved refinancing agreement are allowed to submit a modification proposal or a new application without the need for a period of one year from the previous application.
  • Companies or freelancers that are insolvent will not have the obligation to request the bankruptcy declaration until December 31, 2020. Until that same date, the judges will not admit the necessary bankruptcy requests submitted from the state of alarm.

 B Law & Tax
International Tax & Legal Advisors

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Tags: Royal Decree-Law, Coronavirus, State of alarm, Goverment, Council of Ministers, Judicial