THE SPAINISH COURT SYSTEM
The Spanish Court system is governed by the "General Council of the Judiciary" (Consejo General del Poder Judicial). It is an independent body from the legislative and executive branches of Government.
The Spanish Court system is hierarchical, the scheme of the Spanish courts below shows the different levels in which the Courts are structured from the highest to the lowest level.
The Spanish court has been divided into three level that is
- Supreme Court as the Court of Last resort and the Highest court of the Country AND Constitutional Court
- Intermediate Courts such as National Court, High Courts, Provincial Court
Lower Courts such as Provincial Court, Minors' Courts, the Courts of Prison Vigilance, Labor Courts, the Administrative Courts, Criminal Courts scheme neither include the Constitutional Court (which is at the same level than the Supreme Court) nor the Military Jurisdiction, which has its own courts also structured in different levels.
Normally the legal action begins in the Court of First Instance, the appeals and counter-appeals go to higher courts.
THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) is the highest level of justice in the Spanish system, it is based in Madrid, its jurisdiction extends throughout the Spanish territory and over all judicial matters.
The Supreme Court of Spain is divided into five Chambers:
- Military and
The Supreme Court hears appeals for the annulment, or revision, of sentences handed down by the National or Regional High Courts.
It also tries civil or criminal cases against the President of the Government, Ministers, Members of Parliament etc.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
The Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) is at the same level as the Supreme Court though it is an independent court which only considers constitutional matters, cases in which it is alleged violation of constitutional rights and Disputes between the State and Autonomous Communities.
The National Court (Audiencia Nacional) sits in Madrid, with jurisdiction over the whole Spanish territory. The National Court has the following chambers:
- Criminal Chamber
- Administrative Chamber
The Criminal Chamber tries those cases involving crimes committed against
- The Royal Family,
- High Government officials,
- Major drug trafficking,
- Counterfeiting and
Offences committed outside the Spanish Territory which are prosecuted in Spain.
It also decides on Extradition requests and hears appeals against the sentences determined by the Central Criminal Courts, the Central Instruction Courts and the Central Minors' Court.
Administrative Chamber of the Court hears the appeals against the decisions adopted by the Ministers and the Secretaries of the Spanish State.
Social Chamber of the court tries the special process for contesting collective bargaining agreements applicable to a territory, which is bigger than an Autonomous Community, it also tries those processes about collective labour conflicts.
Within the National Court, the Central Examining Courts (Juzgados Centrales de Instrucción) investigate and prepare cases to be tried either in the Central Criminal Court or the National Court.
The Central Criminal Courts (Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal) hear only those cases involving crimes which punishments do not exceed 5 years imprisonment.
REGIONAL HIGH COURTS
The Regional High Court (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de las Comunidades Autónomas) is the highest level of Justice within each Autonomous Community of Spain. It is divided into 4 Chambers: Civil, Criminal, Administrative and Labour.
The Provincial Court (Audiencia Provincial) tries civil and criminal cases. Its jurisdiction extends throughout the Province and is located in its capital.
This Court tries those crimes which prescribed sentence could exceed 5 years imprisonment. The court also hears appeals against sentences and decisions determined by the lower Courts: Instruction Court, Criminal Courts of the Province, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Prison Vigilance and from the Minors Court of the province.
Minors' Courts, the Courts of Prison Vigilance, Labour Courts, the Administrative Courts, Criminal Courts
The Minor's Courts (Juzgados de Menores) hear those cases involving minors under the age of 16, its jurisdiction may extend several provinces within an Autonomous Community.
The Courts of Prison Vigilance (Juzgados de Vigilancia Penitenciaria) look after the operation of prisons and the legal rights of detainees. They grant parole and any condition attached to it.
The Labour Courts (Juzgados de lo Social) hear all labour and work-related cases.
The Administrative Courts (Juzgados de lo Contencioso-Administrativo) hear the administrative appeals. These Courts also give permission for the authorities to enter the dwellings as well as to those places where it is required the owner's consent.
The Criminal Courts (Juzgados de lo Penal) try the crimes prepared and investigated by the Court of the 1st Instance, the maximum penalty for the crimes must not exceed 5 years imprisonment.
First Instance And Examininig Courts
The Courts of the First Instance (Juzgados de Primera Instancia) hear civil cases, which are not legally prescribed to be heard by another higher court. These also hear appeals in civil cases against judgements handed down by the Justice of Peace.
The Examining Courts (Juzgados de Instrucción):
- Investigate and prepare criminal cases to be tried in other courts (Provincial Audiences and Criminal Courts).
- Try misdemeanor's cases which cannot be tried before the Justice of the Peace.
- Is in charge of the Habeas Corpus procedure.
Hear appeals in criminal cases against judgements handed down by Justice of Peace.
In civil cases, appealing before a Provincial Court does not preclude the possibility of provisional enforcement of judgments delivered in the Court of First Instance.
Justice Of The Peace Court
The Justice of Peace (Juzgados de Paz) operates in small communities with no First Instance and Instruction Courts. They hear minor civil cases, among their functions, they sometimes work as Civil Registry Body.