The Ministry of Justice announced last Wednesday the extension for 2022 of the measures implemented last September to alleviate the situation generated in the Supreme Court due to the impossibility of appointing new magistrates until the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) is renewed. The department headed by Pilar Llop has expanded the 12 extraordinary service commissions of lawyers for the technical cabinet of the high court that are giving support to the magistrates of four of the five chambers of the Supreme Court (all except the Criminal Court, the only one in which there are vacancies). But Justice has also communicated to the governing body of the judges that it will not attend, for now, the last request made to try to get the First Chamber – the Civil Chamber – out of collapse, which accumulates almost 20,000 pending matters: the temporary incorporation of five support magistrates to help the heads of the room to write their sentences.
The request for reinforcement magistrates was the most extraordinary measure requested by the CGPJ to circumvent the recent legal reform that prevents it from making discretionary appointments while it continues in that interim situation. The request was formulated by the Council after the president of the First Chamber, Francisco Marín Castán, gave the warning voice last fall about the situation in which his room was. “A point has been reached where it is no longer possible to maintain a reasonable response time without additional backup or support measures,” he warned.
The First Chamber is in charge of appeals in civil matters and in recent years it has been overwhelmed by cases related to contracts between individuals and banks, such as mortgage expenses or floor clauses. The resources on this matter represented in 2019 23% of those admitted by the room and now exceed 51%. And the situation will predictably get complicated because those that are being admitted now have their origin in lawsuits filed in 2017. “We are witnessing the beginning of a process with enormous repercussions on the operation of the room and that will be exacerbated in the coming years,” he warns. President.
This room already has the reinforcement of the support lawyers of the technical cabinet whose extension has now been approved by the Ministry of Justice. The main mission of these is to decide which resources are admitted and which are not, but the drafting of the sentences remains in the exclusive hands of the nine magistrates (10 until last November) of the room. And it is for this task that the Council requested the temporary reinforcement of five magistrates, who would not be part of the deliberations, but would be assigned to the technical cabinet and would dedicate themselves to drafting sentences on matters for which there is already consolidated jurisprudence .
The request was sent to Justice, but the Ministry has informed the Council that, for now, it will not attend to it. He did so this week during a meeting of the mixed commission between the department led by Llop and the body chaired by Carlos Lesmes, as confirmed by sources from both institutions. The reason alleged by Justice is that only three months have passed since the reinforcement of the lawyers was incorporated, which is considered insufficient time to verify the effectiveness of the measure and decide if it is necessary to implement another.
Sources from this ministry point out that there is already a package of support measures for the Supreme Court “in human, material and procedural means.” The human resources, they point out, are the ones that began in September and have been extended throughout 2022; the materials, fundamentally the advances in digitization of all the rooms, including the military one; and among the procedural ones, the planned reform of the cassation appeal in the preliminary draft of procedural efficiency measures.
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Llop and Lesmes are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks and one of the issues that will be discussed at that meeting will be the coordination of these measures, sources of Justice assure. Neither the minister nor the president of the Council were present at the meeting of the mixed commission, but the members of the CGPJ who attended have already informed Lesmes that the Government will not attend to the request to incorporate support magistrates for now and the president foresees reiterate this request in the meeting with Llop. CGPJ sources maintain that the Government’s reasons for not authorizing support magistrates for now are mainly economic, since they are highly paid positions. The reinforcement of the 12 lawyers has a cost of 700,000 euros, according to the data provided by Justice.
The Ministry’s decision comes days after the Supreme Court approved a series of measures last Monday to reorganize its Contentious-Administrative Chamber, the most affected by the impossibility of filling vacancies. The retirement of two magistrates in the coming months, together with the six unfilled positions it already has, will leave some of its sections out of business, which has led the court to move magistrates from one section to another.
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