9.1. COURT PROCEEDINGS
Judiciary Organic Law 6/1985, of July 1, regulates the constitution, operation and governance of courts and tribunals in Spain. For judicial purposes, the State is organized on a territorial basis into municipalities, judicial districts, provinces and Autonomous Communities, in which the Justices of the Peace, the Courts of First Instance, Examining Courts, Commercial Courts, Criminal Courts, Judicial Review Courts, Labor Courts, Provincial Appellate Courts and High Courts have jurisdiction. The Supreme Court and the National Appellate Court (Audiencia Nacional) (the latter only for certain specific matters) have jurisdiction over the entire national territory. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority with the sole exception of the guarantee of constitutional rights, which are safeguarded by the Constitutional Court.
Law 1/2000, the Spanish Civil Procedure Law, came into force on January 8, 2001. Criminal, labor and administrative proceedings are governed, respectively, by the Criminal Procedure Law approved by the Royal Decree dated September 14, 1882, Law 36/2011, of October 10, 2011, regulating the labor and social security jurisdiction, and Judicial Review Procedure Law 29/1998.
Although the Spanish litigation system should be considered as a continental law system, certain features of the Civil Procedure Law have their roots in the common law system. An example of this is the predominance of the oral proceeding. The Civil Procedure Law reduces formalities and promotes more expeditious proceedings and a quicker and more efficient response from the courts.
Spain has signed numerous bilateral and multilateral treaties on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judicial decisions.
Arbitration is increasingly viewed as a genuine alternative for the settlement of commercial disputes. Companies, aware of the greater speed, efficiency and flexibility of arbitration compared to action before the courts, are increasingly keen to turn to arbitration. Furthermore, Spanish courts increasingly support arbitration, both in terms of arbitration agreements and the enforcement of arbitral awards.
Arbitration Law 60/2003 of December 23, 2003 (the “Arbitration Law”) enables both individuals and companies to enter into agreements to submit to one or more arbitrators any disputes that have arisen or may arise on matters the regulation of which is not subject to any legal restrictions. The Arbitration Law is almost entirely inspired by the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. Royal Decree 231/2008, of February 15, regulates the Consumer Arbitration System for disputes arising between consumers or users and companies in relation to the legal or contractual rights granted to consumers.
The Arbitration Law allows for the granting of interim measures by the arbitrators. This power does not oust the jurisdiction of the courts under the Civil Procedure Law to grant interim measures while a decision is pending in an arbitration proceeding. The jurisdiction of courts and arbitrators to grant interim measures is concurrent, meaning that parties can request interim measures from the arbitral tribunal or from the court, without distinction.
Under the Arbitration Law it is possible to enforce an arbitral award handed down in Spain even where proceedings to set aside the award have already been brought. In this case, a court may only stay the enforcement of the award if the party against whom the award is being enforced posts security for an amount equal to the amount set out in the award, plus any potential damages arising from the delay in enforcement of the award.
The grounds for refusal to recognize or enforce arbitral awards contained in the Arbitration Law are based on the contents of the UNCITRAL Model Law, which in turn is based almost in its entirety on the New York Convention of 1958. Spain has ratified the New York Convention of 1958 and the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration signed in Geneva on April 21, 1961.
Spain’s adherence to a Model Law-inspired arbitration regime makes international arbitration in Spain more accessible for cross-border practitioners and their clients. The Arbitration Law brings Spain ever closer to becoming an ideal venue for international arbitration, particularly where Latin American interests are involved, given Spain’s convenient geographical location in southern Europe, its competitive cost structure compared to other European jurisdictions and its linguistic and cultural ties to Latin America.