The judicial saturation worsens in Tarragona with 380 new cases every day

The saturation in the courts of Tarragona worsens. Some 380 new cases enter each day, a figure that before the pandemic ranged between 280 and 300. The increase compared to last year's balance is 13%, but the accumulated number of pending issues is even more serious, since the plug it is getting bigger and bigger, partly due to the consequences of Covid-19.

At the end of the second quarter of this year there were almost 62,000 cases in process, according to the balance of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). In 2019, before the pandemic, the figure was 49,106, 26% less. Since 2016, the number of pending court cases has skyrocketed in the province by 59%.

"The vast majority of judicial bodies in the province are overloaded with work," says Joan Perarnau, president of the Provincial Court of Tarragona

The Report of the Tarragona Provincial Court of 2021 already pointed out various deficiencies. It identified at least 12 saturated courts and urged the creation of another four to begin to decongest the system. Likewise, it indicated that during the past year the Covid "continued to limit the normal functioning of judicial activity in the province", in the words of Joan Perarnau, president of the Court, who added: "The vast majority of judicial bodies in the province are with work overload”. The report exposes, in relation to the balance of the 2021 academic year: «The capacity limitations, the need to comply with the strict sanitary measures, the numerous casualties produced or the suspensions of trials, in percentages of 30-40% in some phases, have generated a generalized slowdown in judicial activity.

“The courts are overflowing. We do not have enough to satisfy the needs of the citizen and the business fabric", denounces Estela Martín, dean of the Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona

The situation has worsened so far this year. And it is not a question of a lack of intensity of work, quite the contrary. The courts of Tarragona resolve more cases than they enter, but the volume of lawsuits is such that the issues accumulate. The latest figures demonstrate this, but it is also exposed by voices such as Estela Martín, dean of the Il lustre Col legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona (ICAT): «For months we have been denouncing that due to the pandemic there has been an increase of the cases and litigation".

Longer wait times

All this means that, according to Martín, "the courts are overwhelmed and that we are not able to satisfy the needs of citizens and the business community." The consequence is "much longer response times than was usual", specifically, in two areas: "The social and commercial courts have especially serious situations."

"The key is to always have more resources and more speed because economic crises tend to create greater litigation," says Manuel Sosa, president of the Civil Law section of the Il lustre Col legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona. Troubled times often translate into a higher volume of activity.

"There has been a great increase in family issues, linked to the modification of measures," explains Encarnación Orduna, dean of the Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Reus

Sosa admits that "lawyers try to promote ways such as mediation, especially in family matters, and also arbitration when it comes to business matters, so that instead of having to wait four or five years with an issue, you can resolve in six months.

The lawyer Francisco Zapater acknowledges that "the pandemic has affected a lot, to the extent that it has delayed the processes, which last longer." For the lawyer from Tarragona, the effects of the limitations are still noticeable. "The administration of justice has found a certain letter of marque here, with restrictions or prior appointment, so that, as has happened with the entire general public administration, the quality has dropped," says Zapater.

When the money doesn't flow

Then there are the effects of two years of the pandemic and all the difficulties that have been generated. Zapater is illustrative in this regard: «When money flows, it is easy to reach agreements. But when I don't have money, I try to delay the payment as much as possible. When we enter the courts, control of time is already lost. The crisis influences in two ways. There are many who cannot comply because they have entered a worse economic situation and others delay even more the fulfillment of their debt.

"Economic crises tend to create greater litigation," says Manuel Sosa, president of the Civil Law section of the Col legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona

The labor conflict, reflected as a sample in the social courts, is an example, but there is more. “When there is an economic boom, the courts are used less. Now there is an impact on the family as well. In crisis situations, there are couples who hang on, waiting to see if the storm subsides. Now that the worst is over, it is logical to make decisions”, indicates Zapater.

Encarnación Orduna, Dean of the Il·lustre Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Reus, emphasizes that «this situation is not new, it is historical» and points to another factor: «Normally the judges in Catalonia come from abroad. They're here for a while and they're gone. There is a lot of mobility and sometimes it is difficult to cover casualties. That affects too." Orduna, from the capital of Baix Camp, also detects "an increase in litigation due to" labor problems as a result of ERTE or dismissals "and also in the family sphere:" There are many demands for modification of measures, because economic circumstances may have changed. But there is also more claim for non-payment of different types, for community fees ».

“There is overload. Between the lawsuit and the trial, a year and a half or two may pass", indicates Víctor Canalda, president of the Labor Law section Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona

Víctor Canalda, president of the Labor Law and Social Security section of the Col·legi de l'Advocacia de Tarragona, is closely experiencing the collapse suffered especially by the three social courts in Tarragona and one in Reus. "Traditionally, here an overload has been dragging on that makes the ratios of cases by courts very high," adds the lawyer. “Right now between when you file the lawsuit and a trial is held, a year and a half or two may pass, speaking of an ordinary process.”

«The crisis affects. When there is an economic boom, the courts are used less”, recognizes the lawyer Francisco Zapater

Canalda has detected an increase in cases derived from an economic situation that is becoming more complicated at times and also as a result of some regulatory changes. «We come from the ERTE, which were mechanisms to avoid layoffs during the stoppages. But once this has happened, the companies make their assessment. Those that have to close, close, and that implies layoffs. There has been an increase." Another open front derives from the application of the labor reform during this 2022. "We are seeing sanctions and proposals for fines to companies for the misuse of figures such as fixed-discontinuous, and some companies resort", indicates Canalda.

Another pending account for the judicial system is the execution of sentences, that is, the step after the imposition of a sentence, which is activated to demand compliance. Also in this area, more (5,640) are resolved than are recorded (5,640) but there were 61,784 resolutions pending in Tarragona at the end of the second quarter, 8% more than last year (57,051).

Excessive load and the request of a second mercantile

In the entire province there is only one commercial court, which is insufficient. It is the one that assumes all the litigations that have to do with the business sphere. It is perhaps the organ in Tarragona with the most chronic saturation, according to the latest report from the Provincial Court of Tarragona. Certainly, there is an improvement for having made progress in the resolution, but even so, the court drags the blockade inherited from previous years.

The response time is 20.4 months, almost two years, clearly "excessive" according to the Court, which translates into a direct impact on the citizen, victim of delays. There are 29% more cases than the court could legally take on, which is why it is urgent to request the creation of a second company in Tarragona.

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