The BOE (Official State Gazette) of 29 April 29 has published Royal Decree-Act 16/2020, of 28 April, regarding procedural and organizational measures intended to address the downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis within the area of the Administration of Justice:
1.- Measures relating to occupational safety.
- Customer service will be carried out by phone or email and, only when necessary, in person, but always by appointment.
- Procedural actions and deliberations shall preferably be carried out online, except in criminal proceedings, where the judge shall decide. The accused’s physical presence shall always be necessary in serious crimes.
- Public access to courtrooms may be arranged according to their characteristics and size.
- Attorneys shall be excused from wearing gowns.
- Examinations by forensic doctors, whenever possible, shall be made in view of medical documentation.
2.- Procedural measures intended to prevent confusion in calculating terms following the state of alarm and address the increase in cases in certain areas.
- August 11 to 31, 2020 shall be declared working days for all legal proceedings. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are excepted from this provision, except legal proceedings for which these days are already working days in accordance with procedural laws.
- Two work shifts shall be established in the morning and afternoon.
- Procedural terms that would have been suspended by declaring the state of alarm shall be reinitiated and calculated from scratch.
- A special, preferential, summary procedure is laid down for family matters arising from the pandemic.
- In the case of ERTEs (Temporary and Suspensive Collective Dismissals), those which do not reach the thresholds for collective dismissal may be governed by a simpler, faster process.
- A provision is included whereby the Civil Registry does not have to re-process marriage files already processed and suspended due to confinement.
- Preference shall be given to four types of actions:
– Those relating to the protection of minors;
– Cases in which a financial entity or a lessor does not acknowledge the moratorium on mortgages or rental agreements;
– Appeals against the authorities owing to the denial of aid to alleviate the economic effects of COVID-19,
– Labour matters relating to dismissal or termination of employment contracts and matters arising from the recovery of working hours not provided during the paid leave established during the crisis.
3.- Stimulus for the recovery of judicial activity.
- Possibility of converting judicial bodies, wholly or partly, into bodies temporarily associated with matters arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
- Permitting Regionally Appointed Judges (professional judges who act as reinforcement or fill vacancies and absences in courts and tribunals) to be assigned preferentially to matters arising from the pandemic.
- Enabling lawyers for the Administration of Justice in training, having passed the entrance exam, to carry out tasks in replacement and reinforcement.
- Enabling the officials of each court, tribunal or prosecutor’s office to carry out their functions in another unit of the same area and the same jurisdiction.
4.- Digital transformation measures.
- Enabling and improving the use of digital signatures and identification systems in the Administration of Justice.
- Establishing a general obligation both for the Ministry of Justice and the Autonomous Communities with relevant powers to guarantee that the procedural management systems of all Autonomous Communities’ courts and tribunals allow teleworking.
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