I know that many of you are very frustrated by the slowness of your cases that have unfortunately reached the Spanish courts. I am in charge of litigations within this firm and believe me when I tell you that I understand you perfectly, because I also have to deal with the slowness of the courts and also with many people who work in the courts and create very unpleasant situations which, in most cases, cause you, as a client, to suffer in silence or, at most, to confine yourself to asking about your case and complain about the slowness. You have every reason to complain!
Recently, an unpleasant situation happened to me that I want to share with you with the sole purpose of making it clear to you why we lawyers are not to blame for the current situation.
I suppose most of you know that many workers in the Spanish legal system have exercised their right to strike. It all started on 24 January 2023 with the Letrados de la Administración de Justicia (formerly called court clerks). After 2 months on strike, they resumed work at the end of March 2023. Then came the Easter week with “mandatory” rest for the courts and tribunals. Upon returning from this holiday, other groups of court employees also decided to go on strike. They all demanded the same thing: more salary and more facilities to work better.
I support the opportunity for everyone to exercise their rights, including strike action. But what is inexcusable is that they abuse that right to commit molestation for the sole purpose of causing damage, the more the better…. Who are the victims of this? Well, they are you in the first place, but the lawyers and other professionals employed by the judiciary have also been affected.
Well, I will now explain to you what happened to me during the week of 15-19 May 2023.
Summary: I am summoned to attend two different courts 200 km apart on the same morning. I am denied the change of day for one case on the grounds that I could best defend the two people while there is less than two hours time between one trial and the other.
The story is as follows. Eight months ago, I was scheduled for a trial in Almeria on Wednesday 17 May 2023 at 12.05pm. To avoid having to travel (450 km each way, as I live in Valencia), I requested that the trial be held by videoconference. Admittedly, I am in favour of attending the trials in person, but in view of the misconduct of the “unjust” court employees, I thought it would be wisest to request this to avoid travelling there for nothing in case a strike ended up taking place without giving me timely notice.
However, the Almeria court refused me this, simply because they did not “want” it. So they forced me to make the trip with the uncertainty that when I got there I might find the court closed due to staff strike.
Well in April, I was scheduled for the same day, 17 May, at 10am for another court case in Lorca. This is a proceeding with a client who suffers from Parkinson’s, diabetes and has a long list of other health problems and resident in the Netherlands.
When this confluence of circumstances occurs, a change of day is requested from the court (in Lorca) for obvious reasons. I cannot defend a client in the circumstances I am telling you about. Indeed, I cannot, while driving to Almería, defend a client in person or through video conferencing.
The inconceivable reaction of the court in Lorca was to refuse the change of day 17 May, claiming that I would have enough time to defend both clients if I did it by videoconference. In other words, they wanted me to defend my client in Lorca while I was driving and meanwhile keeping my fingers crossed that the workers in Almería were not on strike. You can probably imagine my anger at this situation. I was promptly prepared to lodge a complaint with the ministry.
In the end, the good news is that the court case took place in Almería. But imagine for a moment that after all those kilometres I arrive in Almeria and am told that the employee handling the case has gone on strike and that I can go home again without success.
This is not the end of the story. On 19 May, that is, two days after the conflicting summons, I receive a message from the court in Lorca informing me of the following:
Lorca, 17 May 2023
In other words, the employee, the one who forced me to be “superwoman”, finally decided to suspend the trial on the day of the trial itself because of her right to strike. The summary is that she wanted to do harm at all costs. She already knew she would go on strike, but she wanted to annoy the public and, of course, me.
I will not tire you further with such problems, but I only ask for your understanding and patience, a lot of patience until the Spanish legal system is stabilised.
Thank you very much.
Mª Dolores García Santos
Lawyer at Lex Foris, specialising in litigations