Danny Daniel set foot in Madrid from Miami the first week of March with a desire for justice. This composer had been waiting five years for a plagiarism trial against the SGAE for a song that, according to him, the Gipsy Kings copied from him in 1982. He claims more than three million euros from society. But the expectation of him was soon cut off, since a few hours after arriving in Spain they announced to him that his oral hearing had been suspended due to the indefinite strike that the lawyers of the administration of justice (former judicial secretaries) have maintained since the beginning of the January 24. There is no scheduled date for the relocation of the trial. It is just one example of the thousands of processes that have been left in limbo due to the lack of agreement between the Ministry of Justice and the workers who demand improvements in their working conditions. Some strikes that especially affect justice in Madrid, historically saturated. In the region, 15,235 procedural acts have been suspended since the strike began, according to data from the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM).
Madrid closed 2022 with 533,538 cases pending resolution, 10% more than the previous year, according to data from the General Council of the Judiciary made public last week. The plan of the judicial lawyers to force the negotiation has meant a new “wound” in a “patient who was already terminal”, in the words of María Jesús del Barco, president of the Professional Association of the Magistracy and dean judge of Madrid. Since the strikes began until March 9, 33,332 social, contentious and civil lawsuits have been filed that await destination in a drawer.
The structural overload in which justice lives in the region responds to some logical reasons: the Community of Madrid is one of those with the most litigation by population and also by the high number of companies that have their headquarters there. “And also because it is the one that accumulates some of the most complex issues. Trials that keep a magistrate busy for a month, in which he cannot dedicate himself to any other cause, ”says Del Barco. “All strikes entail damage, but in our case, the situation was already bad before,” he adds.
The strike committee figures at 293,000 views suspended since the strike began throughout Spain. Ernesto Casado, spokesman for the strike committee, assures that reinforcement measures have already been put on the negotiating table at the time the strike ends to unblock, but for now he affirms that there have been no concrete agreements in this regard. “The communities with the most saturation, such as Madrid, are the main ones interested in seeing it resolved, because the disbursement of overtime and additional equipment to alleviate the situation will come from the communities with transferred powers,” he points out.
Many of the suspended trials are not being rescheduled. Nobody knows when the case of the corpses of the Complutense will be tried, which uncovered the alleged illicit enrichment of a professor from the Faculty of Medicine since 2008 while accumulating bodies in terrible conditions in the basement of the building. The oral hearing was scheduled for this Friday, March 10. She also saw a mother who was arrested by police for leaving her daughter home alone to go to work two weeks ago, have her mistrial. And many more anonymous stories. Fredy and Martha, clients of the lawyer Patricia Gómez, also saw the hearing canceled last Monday due to a real estate “nightmare” that they have been dragging for more than a decade. It happened in the Majadahonda court, one of the courts that, according to data from the Madrid Bar Association, most supports the strike. “It especially affected me because it is a bleeding case, in which those affected are older and have been waiting a long time,” says the lawyer.
Throughout Spain there are some 3,000 judicial secretaries, of which 552 work in the Community of Madrid. The strike committee figures monitoring in the region at 50%, although they warn that it is not an exact percentage due to the difficulty of gathering information with so many judicial headquarters. In the data provided by the TSJM, it can be seen that fewer processes are suspended each week. The first 2,526 were cancelled, while the last this figure has fallen to 1,620.
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For Judge Del Barco, the pandemic “was worse”, because it not only blocked the processes in the time when there was no activity, but also delayed many others because it was necessary to continue maintaining security regulations that reduced the number of oral hearings. However, legal sources suggest that the strike may once again bring the Community to these pandemic saturation levels. “We are going to take years to overcome this situation, if we were already accumulating delay, how are we going to relocate all the suspended hearings?” laments Javier Mata, spokesman for the Madrid Bar Association and managing partner of the Andersen law firm with more than 90 lawyers in anonymous.
Mata points out the economic losses that this entails, not only for offices, but also for clients. I’ll give you a recent example. A trial for a significant amount in Plaza Castilla. The client comes from the Netherlands, another lawyer from Mallorca, not to mention the rest of the witnesses and experts from different parts of Spain. Only when traveling we calculate thousands of euros. As much as we tried to anticipate if the hearing was going to be suspended, it was not until we were all in court that they told us about it, ”he points out.
“The longer this goes on in time, the more ball it will become. We believe that we will need a minimum of eight months to release everything that is blocked”, affirms Ernesto Casado, from the strike committee. “And of course we are aware that behind each cancellation, there is a story and a person. They come to us every day emails and messages from people who ask us to unclog something because they need a simple piece of paper to be able to travel or collect compensation, but I cannot coerce anyone not to exercise their right to strike, not even appealing to these reasons”, he argues. In addition to the delays in the procedures, Casado also points to something that will have to be worked on to rebuild: “This is generating a lot of tension in the workplace, and it will take time before confidence and job well-being recover.”
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