Contributed By Pérez-Llorca
The process consists of two main parts before a final judgment is given. The first part involves the filing, in writing, of both the lawsuit and the statement of defence. The second part consists of the pre-trial hearing and the trial, which are conducted orally. In ordinary proceedings, the pre-trial and the trial hearings are held on separate dates, whereas in verbal proceedings both hearings are conducted at once.
After the filing of an interim motion, the defendant is given the chance to orally present his arguments at the hearing that is held before the court decides whether to accept or reject the motion. During the hearing, the parties can also submit and present evidence for examination by the court.
The SCPA does not regulate any procedure to hold case management hearings before more complex trials or hearings. All cases shall be conducted following one of the two procedures set forth in the SCPA, which do not include extraordinary hearings to deal with complex cases.
The Spanish legal system does not allow jury trials in civil cases.
For evidence to be admissible it must be relevant and relate to the subject of the proceedings. Therefore the criteria the court uses is whether the evidence submitted contributes to clarifying the facts that are deemed as controversial.
Evidence shall be presented within the time period granted by the SCPA. In this sense, the SCPA distinguish between documents and other forms of evidence.
For instance, to ensure that evidence is admissible, all documents used by the parties to support their claim or defence shall be provided together with the claim or the statement of defence. In the pre-trial hearing, new documents can be submitted as long as the parties became aware of its existence after filing the claim and the response to the claim or the documents are dated subsequent to such filing.
On the other hand, any evidence regarding witness or expert testimonies can be introduced at the pre-trial hearing.
Expert testimony is permitted in cases where scientific, artistic, technical or practical knowledge may be necessary to prove any facts or circumstances that are relevant to the matter at issue.
The parties can appoint an expert themselves or ask the court to appoint an expert to present the requested report. If neither party deems the appointment of an expert necessary, the court itself may not appoint an expert. The only exception to this rule is during proceedings that concern the declaration or contest of kinship, paternity or maternity, the capacity of an individual or during matrimonial proceedings. In these situations the court is allowed, by the SCPA, to appoint ex officio an expert to issue an opinion.
Hearings are generally open to the public unless the court reasonably decides otherwise. However, transcripts of hearings are usually of limited access to the parties.
At the pre-trial hearing, the judge shall lead the parties’ lawyers from one stage to another and rule regarding the admissibility of evidence.
During the trial, once the lawyers have had the chance to question the witnesses or experts, the judge may intervene to ask some other questions that have been omitted by lawyers and are relevant to clarify the matters at stake.
After the trial, judgments are reserved for a later date as they are in writing.
The timeframes for proceedings are dependent on the caseload of each court and the type of proceeding. On average, the timeframe may vary from a period of several months to one or two years in the first instance.