Contributed By Pérez-Llorca
The Spanish legal system is based on civil law and follows an inquisitorial model. The Spanish legal system is hierarchical and is characterised by the primacy of statutory law, customs and general principles of law. Moreover, the Spanish legal process is conducted through both written submissions and oral argument.
Spain’s court system is structured hierarchically. Courts are divided into municipalities, districts, provinces and autonomous communities. There are national courts which have nationwide jurisdiction, such as the Spanish Supreme Court (“Tribunal Supremo”) or the National Criminal and Administrative Court (“Audiencia Nacional”). There are also regional high courts, or autonomous community courts, such as the High Courts of Justice, which have authority over an autonomous community (“Tribunal Superior de Justicia”), and provincial courts (“Audiencia Provincial”) which have jurisdiction over a single province. There are also lower courts, such as First Instance Courts (“Juzgados de Primera Instancia”), which are assigned to judicial districts.
Courts are also organised by subject matter jurisdiction. Specifically, there are civil courts, criminal courts, administrative courts and labour courts. There are also military courts. On the other hand, ordinary courts exist which specialise in specific matters, such as family or commercial courts.
Court hearings and trials are generally open to the public. However, certain exceptions are established by statute. For instance, certain hearings and/or trials may be kept confidential when the court deems it necessary for public order reasons, or to preserve the rights of a criminal defendant, their family or those of a minor. Court filings and proceedings are open to the individuals who can prove their legitimate interest in the information sought.
Lawyers who studied law in Spain must be active members of a Spanish bar association in order to conduct cases before Spanish courts. A lawyer is able to conduct a case in any Spanish court, regardless of which local bar association in the country they are admitted to.
Foreign lawyers may conduct cases in Spanish courts if certain requirements are met. The specific requirements depend on whether the foreign lawyer is from a European Union country or not. Moreover, European Union lawyers must meet different requirements depending on whether they wish to conduct cases in Spain permanently or temporarily. Certain restrictions apply if a lawyer from a country in the European Union wishes to conduct a case before Spanish courts on a temporary basis. For instance, the visiting lawyer must act together with a Spanish lawyer.