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null 11. TRIAL COURTS AND JUDICIAL OFFICE

11. TRIAL COURTS AND JUDICIAL OFFICE

The model of judicial organization created by the 1978 Spanish Constitution and developed by the Organic Law of the Judiciary Power of 1985 is based on the traditional single-judge court. Nowadays, the greater complexity of social and economic relations and the significant increase in litigation pose new demands on the organization of the Administration of Justice.

The traditional judicial organization has caused, over time, some dysfunctions in the Administration of Justice, such as the lack of specialization of the courts, the proliferation of bodies with identical jurisdiction in each judicial district, the favoring of interim and non-professional justice, and inequalities in the workload and in the case resolution time, among others. The accelerated digitalization process facilitates and supports an organizational transformation.

Trial Courts. The rationalization of the model and its efficiency advise that the first level of judicial organization, as such an organization, operates in a collegiate manner - as it also does in other judicial instances - and in line with other neighboring countries. Thus, while in Spain there are 3,627 courts - each with a judge or magistrate, a Court clerk and a variable number of personnel at its service - in countries such as France there are 288 Trial Courts, in Italy 140 Ordinary Courts, and in Germany 115 District Courts, to cite a few examples.

In order to improve the organizational framework, the introduction of the Trial Courts will mean the elimination of the single-judge Court as single-person body, and the creation of a collegiate body comprising all the judges of first instance in the territory of their jurisdiction. Thus introducing greater flexibility and favoring higher quality in first instance solutions as a result of the specialization.

The implementation of the Trial Courts should entail the redistribution of judges in the territorial scope of their competences in such a way that the current imbalances in the workload between some courts and others will no longer occur; it will also put an end to the inequalities in the time taken to resolve cases of the same type, allowing for greater specialization of judges and improving working conditions. This will result in a better quality of public service. It will favor substitutions among the same judges, avoiding the appointment of reinforcements and making it possible to progressively put an end to the so-called "interim justice".

On the other hand, from a strictly jurisdictional point of view, the Trial Courts will allow the unification of criteria in the interpretation and application of the law. This will also contribute towards reactivating the economy, since legal certainty and the predictability of the judicial response in case of conflict are pillars of the confidence required for any productive investment.

In addition to the above, this reform will make it possible to take advantage of the organizational improvements generated by the implantation of the Judicial Office, which is based on the specialization of units and on the pooling of efforts through the creation of common services.

Judicial office. With Organic Law 19/2003, of 23 December, amending Organic Law 6/1985 of the Judiciary Power (LOPJ, Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial in Spanish) a new organizational model for the Judicial Office was introduced, which it defines as "an instrumental organization that exclusively provides support and back-up for jurisdictional activity" and which is based on the principles of hierarchy, division of functions and coordination.

Likewise, the LOPJ stipulates that the Judicial Office will operate with criteria of agility, effectiveness, efficiency, rationalization of work, management accountability, coordination and cooperation between Administrations, so that citizens obtain a convenient and quality service, with due respect for the principles set out in the Charter of Citizens' Rights before Justice.

Seventeen years after the new model definition, it has been implemented in barely 10% of the 431 judicial districts in Spain. There are several reasons for this lack of implementation, but there are undoubtedly three that have been decisive so far:

  • The lack of correspondence with the current judicial structures (Courts of Law instead of Trial Courts).
  • Little or no adaptation of judicial buildings to the need for large spaces to house common procedural services.
  • The impossibility of processing digital format court files entirely.

With the implementation of the Trial Courts foreseen in the project that is being processed for this purpose and the possibility of processing judicial proceedings electronically - even from physical locations far from the court itself - the possibility of completing the map of the Judicial Office within a reasonable time period opens up.

The "Digital Judicial Office" project is the opportunity to turn judicial offices into instruments where technology is at the service of greater productivity and efficiency, at the service of quality and excellence, and to continue developing the functions of the lawyers in charge of the Administration of Justice. Making the office "digital" does not only imply quiting analog methods, but also important changes in the communication and interrelation channels, both internally - with the organization itself - and externally - with professionals, users and other institutions -, and this will also demand important cultural changes. Technological advances combined with the reorganization of structures for the provision of the Public Justice Service, not only improve effectiveness and efficiency, but also allow access to it without physical distance being an impediment.

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