The Juidiciary is regulated on Title VI of the Constitution and by Organic Law 6/1985, , of the Judicial Power (LOPJ), as amended. 

In Spain, Justice is administered only by judges and magistrates and the exercise of judicial authority in any kind of action is vested exclusively in the courts and tribunals laid down by the law.

Although Spain is divided into Autonomous Communities the Judicial Power is unitary. Autonomous Communities doesn’t have judicial power and their courts are courts of the State. However, several Communities are responsibility for staffing court civil servants in their territories.

The provision of unitary also implies that the existence of special courts, courts of exception  and courts of honor  is forbidden. The Constitution calls for a limited military jurisdiction. Military jurisdiction is a part of the Judiciary.

The judicial power is general and is extended to all people, all matters and entire territory including the Public Administration and with the only exception of the person of the King.

Judges are independent and they are subjected only to the rule of law. Judges are not subjected to any orders or instructions by any other power of the State or other judges .. They may only be dismissed, suspended, transferred or retired on the grounds and subject to the safeguards provided for by the law.

The Judicial System is supervised by the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial, CGPJ).

The CGPJ is composed by 20 members and the President who will be also appointed as the President of the Supreme Court (art. 111 LOPJ). The members are proposed by the Congress and the Senate. Twelve of its members shall be judges and magistrates of all judicial categories and eight members chosen amongst lawyers and other jurists of acknowledged competence with more than fifteen years of professional practice. The members of the Council are appointed for a five-year period.

The Structure of the Judiciary

Spanish territory is divided for jurisdictional purposes in:

  • Cities (municipios)
  • Court Districts (partidos judiciales)
  • Provinces (provincias)
  • Autonomous Communities (Comunidades Autonomas)

This division coincides with the administrative division of the territory except for the of this Court districts which are defined at art. 32 LOPJ.

As stated above, Spain has only one judicirary, therefore there are not courts for community matters and courts for nation-wide matters. The Spanish court system is an appellate system with certain particularities. Spain's Supreme Court is similiar to a Court de Cassation, our Constitutional Court only hears constituional issues and it is outside the Judiciary (even though is run by appointed justices)

Each territorial unit has a specific type of court:

  • Municipalities in which there is no First Instance and Examining Court have Courts of Peace (Juzgados de Paz) whose particular status and functions are similar to Small Claims courts and a court for petite crimes in the United States.

  • the site of Court districts have First Instance and Examining Courts (Juzgados de Primera Instancia e Instruccion), Criminal Courts (Juzgados de lo Penal), Courts for the judial review of administrative acts (Juzgados de lo Contencioso-administrativo), Labor Courts (Juzgados de lo Social), Juvenile Courts (Juzgados de Menores) and Juzgados de Vigilancia penitenciaria.
    Those are the kind of Courts that you are more likely to address should you or your company face a claim.

  •  Chapter V LOPJ also recognizes the existence of:

    • Juzgados Centrales de Instrucción (art. 88 LOPJ), created by RD-Law Janurary 4, 1977
    • Juzgado Central de lo Penal (art.89 bis.3 LOPJ), created by Organic Law 7/1988
      Juzgados Centrales de lo Contencioso-administrativo were created by Organic Law 29/1998
  • Provinces have a Cout of Appeals sitting on the capital of the Province.

  • Each Autonomous Community has a High Court of Justice that is the highest body for certain subject matters, especially some involving Community regulations.

Over the whole territory two courts have jurisdiction:

  • Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo),the highest body in the Nation.
  • National Court (Audiencia Nacional) has original subject matter jurisdiction over certain issues such us terrorism, money laundreing, racketerring and criminal association. 

Spanish courts are also organized hierarchically. There is a system of appeals against the decisions of lower courts to higher courts and to the Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial body in all branches of justice excepting provisions concerning constitutional guaranteesthat may be hear by the Constitutional Court.

According to the subject of the matter Spanish courts are organized in four categories:

  • Civil, for civil or commercial issues
  • Criminal, for violations of the criminal code
  • Social, for social security and employment contracts issues
  • Administrative for claims based on acts performed by public administration.

The Fifth Section (Sala Quinta) of the Supreme Court is the Military Chamber that is the highest court for military law.