The Spanish court system is organized in different jurisdictional orders according to the nature of the matters at issue: civil, commercial, criminal, administrative, social (employment, etc.) and, finally, military.
Civil courts have jurisdiction over all civil claims (contractual and non-contractual claims, family law issues, inheritance and, in general, any matter that is not attributed to the other jurisdictions), regardless of the amounts at stake. Commercial courts are specialised courts which form part of the civil legal system and have jurisdiction over insolvency proceedings and commercial claims relating to unfair competition, industrial property, intellectual property, advertising, amongst others matters.
The civil court system is organised as follows:
(i) Courts of Peace (Juzgados de Paz).
(ii) First Instance Courts (Juzgados de Primera Instancia).
(iii) Commercial Courts (Juzgados de lo Mercantil).
(iv) Courts of Appeal (Audiencias Provinciales).
(v) High Courts of Justice (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia).
(vi) Supreme Court.
Outside of the court system, the Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) is an independent court that adjudicates on constitutional matters. It is the highest interpreter of the Spanish Constitution. It has jurisdiction over the whole territory and its rulings are not subject to appeal.
b) Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):
In Madrid the major institutions in charge of conducting commercial arbitrations are the Court of Arbitration of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Madrid (“La Corte de Arbitraje de la Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Madrid”), and the Civil and Commercial Arbitration Court (“La Corte Civil y Mercantil de Arbitraje” – CIMA).
In Barcelona we have the Barcelona Arbitration Court (“Tribunal Arbitral de Barcelona” – TAB), and “The Barcelona Consolat de Mar” is the Conflict Resolution Centre of the Barcelona Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation.
We also can find, inter alia, the Galician Association of Arbitration and Mediation (ASGAME) in A Coruña (Galicia) or the Arbitration and Mediation Tribunal of the Balearic Islands (TAMIB) in Palma de Mallorca.
While most of the Lawyers (Bar) associations have developed their own arbitrations courts, a few arbitration institutions have started to offer mediation services.
What do they do to oversee or assist firms that offer dispute resolution services?
a) Ordinary courts:
In short, assist parties in appointing arbitrators, taking evidence, granting injunctions, and controlling awards.
b) Arbitral Institutions:
- Arbitral institutions usually have modern and well-equipped facilities that contribute to conduct arbitrations in the more efficient way possible in terms of quality, time and cost. These institutions organize and promote congresses, lectures, symposiums, roundtables, among other activities that aim to improve and develop the knowledge and the use of ADR methods. Mediation institutions promote and manage mediation proceedings as well.
- Further to a 2011 amendment of the Spanish Arbitration Act (hereinafter “SAA”), arbitral institutions must watch over the arbitrator´s capacity, the transparency in their appointment and their independence through the entire arbitration (article 14.3 of the SAA). These institutions can be liable to damages should they breach these obligations.
- Arbitral institutions are also normally empowered by their rules to select arbitrators if the parties have so agreed or have said nothing in this regard.
- Regarding Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), the Court of Arbitration of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Madrid launched the first and only Spanish online arbitration system in 2010 (namely, TAO-OAM – Online Arbitration Management). This voluntary service allows arbitration to be managed and consulted online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any part of the world.