18 March 2020

Measures concerning judicial and administrative proceedings resulting from COVID-19 health crisis

The health crisis caused by COVID-19 has prompted the adoption of extraordinary measures by both the Spanish Central Government and the General Council of the Judiciary, as well as by several administrations and judicial bodies.

Suspension of deadlines and acts in legal proceedings 

Among others measures agreed by Royal Decree 463/2020, of 14 March, which declared the state of alarm in Spain for the management of the health crisis situation caused by COVID-19 (the "Royal Decree"), its Additional Provision no Two orders the suspension of all scheduled legal acts and diligences and the interruption any procedural deadlines for all jurisdictional orders. In addition, the legally established deadlines for the fulfillment of legal obligations with procedural implications (limitation periods, etc.) are also suspended.

This means that (i) the procedural acts that were going to be carried out within the period of validity of the Royal Decree (or its foreseeable extensions), such as hearings, declarations, etc., shall not take place until the corresponding court sets another date for them to be held; and (ii) the deadline for the presentation of procedural documents (appeals, allegations, etc.) whose expiration is within the period of validity of the Royal Decree (or its foreseeable extensions) will be extended to the number of days remaining until said expiration as from the date of the termination of the suspension.

Notwithstanding the above, those actions that are urgent (especially in criminal matters) or necessary to avoid irreparable damage to the rights and legitimate interests of the parties involved in the proceedings are not subject to suspension or interruption.

Regarding the possibility of submitting briefs by electronic means while the state of alert is in force, as agreed at the 18 March 2020 General Council of the Judiciary meeting, such submission of briefs should be limited to those related to the aforementioned urgent and non-delayable actions and those necessary to avoid irreparable damages.

Suspension of deadlines and acts in administrative proceedings 

The suspension of deadlines also affects to administrative proceedings, according to the Additional Provision no Three of the Royal Decree. Given that in administrative proceedings deadlines are counted on a date-to-date basis (i.e. by months and not by days, which is what happens in judicial proceedings), the consequence of the suspension will probably be one of the following: (i) the extension of the deadline (once the suspension gets to an end) on the same number of days of the duration of the suspension (i.e. the sum of the days that the suspension was in force to the period initially elapsed), or (ii) the restart of the deadline (the whole period) as of the date the suspension gets to an end. The competent authorities may issue some legal guidelines clarifying the issue.

Suspension of deadlines in insolvency proceedings

Royal Decree Law 8/2020, of 17 March, on urgent extraordinary measures to deal with the economic and social impact of COVID-19, has also suspended the deadline for requesting insolvency declarations by insolvent debtors, and also for requesting insolvency declarations by insolvent debtors who had previously notified the initiation of negotiations with creditors. The suspension also affects out-of-court settlements of payment and the acceptances for a proposal of agreement. Thus, until two months have elapsed since the end of the state of alarm, judges will not admit any request for the necessary declaration of insolvency filed within the referred state of alarm or the following two months.

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