UPDATE: Overview of the Spanish Legal System and Legal Research
By Esteban Cuyás Caudevilla and Gloria Priego Luque
Esteban Cuyás Caudevilla holds a law degree and a Master of Business Law from ESADE (2008) and an LL.M. from Loyola University Chicago (2017) (merit scholarship) where he also served as a clinician in the Business Law Center. Esteban is an active lawyer in Madrid, Spain, and has written several articles on a variety of legal topics.
Gloria Priego Luque holds a double degree in Law and Business Analytics from ICADE (2021) and a Master of International Business Law from Garrigues (2022). Gloria has published about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in La Ley Digital.
Published March/April 2023
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Territorial Organization
- 3. Historical Summary
- 4. Political Organization
- 5. Division of Powers in Spain
- 6. Legal System
- 7. Weakening Process of the Spanish Democracy: “Non omne quod licet honestum est”
- 8. The Legal Profession in Spain
- 9. Bibliography
Spain is a European country geographically located in the southwest of Europe. It is located almost entirely on the Iberian Peninsula (which is shared with Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra), and the Balearic Islands (Mediterranean Sea), the Canary Islands (Atlantic Ocean), the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (located in North Africa), and some minor islands scattered along the Mediterranean coast bordering the North of Africa (the so called plazas de soberanía (i.e., Perejil) and plazas menores (i.e., Chafarinas and Alhucemas islands and the Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera), and the municipality of Llivia (within the boundaries of France) are also part of Spain. It is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Cantabrian Sea. Spain is physically separated from France by the Pyrenees. Spain has a population of more than 47 million inhabitants (on July 1st, 2022), whose common official language is Spanish although several languages and dialects coexist. The co-official languages include Catalan, Valencian, Galician, Basque and Aranese.
Since 1986, Spain has been part of the European Union, together with other countries (today 27 members) so its legal configuration, as we will see later, is influenced by the guidelines of the European Union. In 1999, Spain adopted the euro (€) as its official currency, and since 2002 it has been the only currency in circulation.
2. Territorial Organization
Spain is organized territorially in Autonomous Communities. In total, there are 17 autonomous communities (divided into 52 provinces) and 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla), as can be seen in the following map:
Each community or region is a unit of autonomous political organization, but without reaching the level of independence enjoyed by the federal states.
The Spanish State is one, indissoluble and indivisible. Moreover, the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the regions of which it is composed (i.e., Autonomous Communities), and the solidarity amongst them all.
Articles 1 to 3 of the Spanish Constitution establish:
“1. Spain is hereby established as a social and democratic State, subject to the rule of law, which advocates as the highest values of its legal order, liberty, justice, equality, and political pluralism.
2. National sovereignty is vested in the Spanish people, from whom emanate the powers of the State.
3. The political form of the Spanish State is that of a parliamentary monarchy.”
“The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed, and the solidarity amongst them all.”
“1. Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it.
2. The other Spanish languages shall also be official in the respective Autonomous Communities in accordance with their Statutes.
3. The wealth of the different language modalities of Spain is a cultural heritage which shall be the object of special respect and protection.”
Each Autonomous Community has its own Parliament and is organized into smaller units called "provinces." Exceptionally, some of the Autonomous Communities have only one province (i.e., Asturias, Cantabria, Comunidad Foral de Navarra, La Rioja, Madrid, and Murcia). It is important to highlight the duty of collaboration and solidarity that governs the relationship between the different autonomous communities. The capital of Spain is Madrid.
To know the decision-making powers that correspond to the State as opposed to those attributed to the Autonomous Communities, we turn to Articles 148 and 149 of the Spanish Constitution. The latter article encompasses a list of matters that shall be regulated in a uniform and unique way for the whole Spanish territory, and therefore they are regulated by the State. Article 148 lists matters on which the Autonomous Communities may legislate. Notwithstanding the above, if the State regulates any of the matters contained in Article 148, this matter will become "protected" and would be regulated uniformly at the State level. In other words, matters for which jurisdiction has not been assumed by the Statutes of Autonomy of the Autonomous Communities shall fall within the jurisdiction of the State, whose laws shall prevail, in case of conflict, over those of the Autonomous Communities regarding all matters over which exclusive jurisdiction has not been conferred upon the latter. State law shall, in all cases, be supplementary to that of the Autonomous Communities (Article 149.3, Spanish Constitution).
3. Historical Summary
Spain's strategic enclave makes it not surprising that it is a country with a very complex history, in which all kinds of peoples have tried to settle in its territory. The Visigothic, Carthaginian, and Roman empires conquered part of its territory for decades and that is why we find numerous examples of Roman art throughout the peninsula. In the year 711 the conquest by the Arabs of most of the territory begun, and they called the territory “Al Andalus”. This conquest lasted for eight centuries, and ended completely in the year 1492, when the reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs ended. Years later, during the reign of Felipe II (great-grandson of the Catholic Monarchs who reigned from 1556 to 1598), Spain became the largest empire in the world. From then on, it gradually lost territories.
Between 1873 and 1874 the First Spanish Republic took place, presided over by Estanislao Figueras (February 11 - June 11, 1873), Francisco Pi y Margall (June 11 - July 18, 1873), Nicolás Salmerón (July 18 - September 7, 1873), Emilio Castelar (September 7, 1873 - January 3, 1874) and Francisco Serrano (January 3 - December 31, 1874). The monarchy was then reinstated with Alfonso de Borbón as King of Spain. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out and lasted for three years, that is, until 1939, the year in which the military dictatorship of General Francisco Franco began. This dictatorship lasted 36 years, until the death of the dictator in 1975. Then, the period known as the "Transition" began, with Juan Carlos I as King of Spain and Carlos Arias Navarro as President. Since then, the political configuration of Spain has been a parliamentary Monarchy with a President as Head of Government. Currently, Pedro Sánchez is the President of the Government and Felipe VI, son of Juan Carlos I, is the King.
This multitude of political changes and the coexistence of peoples, religions and ethnicities throughout Spain's history have made it a diverse and multicultural country, with a very rich artistic and architectural history with more than 49 World Heritage Sites.
4. Political Organization
Article 1.1 of the Spanish Constitution establishes that Spain is a social and democratic state governed by the rule of law. This definition has several implications: on the one hand, the fact that it is a social state means that there are social minimums that are considered basic fundamental rights of all Spaniards and that must be protected and guaranteed by the public authorities. In other words, the State is obliged to promote the welfare of its citizens. An example of this would be the right to free health care for all. On the other hand, Spain as a democratic state means that the Spanish people are sovereign to elect their political representatives by means of voting, and the rule of law. This concept, which was originated in the French Revolution and has been adopted by the Spanish Constitution, means that there is a separation of legislative (Parliament), executive (Government) and judicial (Judges) branches, and, in turn, that all Spaniards are equal before the law.
Likewise, Article 1.3. of the Spanish Constitution states that the political form of the Spanish State is the parliamentary monarchy. This means that Spain has a King as head of state, but that the laws do not originate from the King, but that there is a parliament that creates the laws, an executive power that executes them and a judicial power that enforces them.
Next, to explain the system of political organization in Spain, we will develop 2 sections: (4.1) the political organization according to the territorial division and (4.2) the political organization according to the territorial division.
4.1. Political Organization According to the Territorial Division
Spain is territorially organized into Autonomous Communities, which in turn are divided into provinces, and these cities and towns. All these levels of territorial organization have their own impact and political organization.
Central Organization: Some examples of matters that are reserved exclusively to the central State are labor, mercantile, criminal, and penitentiary legislation, the Armed Forces, the Public Treasury, foreign health, scientific and technical research, and all others listed in Article 149 of the Spanish Constitution.
Autonomous Organization: The autonomous communities have their own legislative power in certain matters (e.g., agriculture and livestock, inland fishing, industry, education, commerce, tourism, youth, and sports). To this end, each of them has an autonomous parliament.
Local Organization: Each autonomous community is composed of provinces and municipalities (and islands in the case of the Balearic and Canary Islands). These are the local administrations. Such local entities have the capacity to organize and regulate those aspects that affect them and which, due to their local character, are understood to be better regulated by them rather than by the national or autonomous administration. It is also considered that certain rules will be better received by the citizens if they are regulated in this way. Local organization is carried out by means of City Councils and Provincial Councils.
4.2. Political Organization According to the Division of Powers
The three branches of power are separate and are not meant to interfere in each other’s powers. However, in the last years and specially during the current administration (2019-2023), the Government has engaged in legal reforms and decisions that have significantly weakened the separation of powers (equivalent to the checks and balance system of the United States) as explained below.
5. Division of Powers in Spain
5.1. Legislative Power
The Spanish Parliament is the Cortes Generales, and its main regulation is contained in Title III of the Spanish Constitution. The main purpose of the Cortes Generales is to represent the Spanish people. Its main functions, roughly speaking, can be summarized as: (i) to legislate; (ii) to approve the general budgets of the State for the year, and (iii) to control the action of the Government.
The Cortes Generales are divided into two chambers: the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. Each of them has its own internal rules of procedure. The members of these chambers are elected for periods of four years (this period is called "mandate") and cannot be part of both chambers at the same time. The main differences between the two chambers are as follows:
|Congress of Deputies
|Drafting and proposing laws
|Revision and amendment of laws
5.1.1. The Congress of Deputies
The Congress (also called the Lower House) is currently made up of 350 deputies, but this figure is variable since the Constitution indicates that it will always be made up of a minimum of 300 and a maximum of 400 deputies. It meets in two periods of time (from February to June and from September to December), although when it is not in session a special body called "Permanent Deputation" looks after its interests. The Congress of Deputies is mainly regulated in Articles 66-80 of the Spanish Constitution and in Rules of Procedure of the Congress of Deputies.
This chamber functions in Plenary, Commissions, and other minor bodies.
- The Plenary is made up of all the deputies. Although it must be convened twice a year, it is not uncommon for it to meet extraordinarily more times.
- Governing bodies: they oversee ordering and directing this chamber. They are divided into:
- The Presidency: represents the Congress of Deputies and is elected by the Plenary at the beginning of its term of office.
- The Bureau: organizes the work of the committee and carries out tasks such as approving the budget of the Congress, ordering expenses and personnel management tasks. The President of the Congress, four vice-presidents, and four secretaries form part of the Bureau.
- The Board of Speakers: its main function is to set the agenda for the plenary sessions of Congress.
- Working bodies: these are the bodies that carry out the legislative work. They are organized into:
- Commissions: these are the bodies that prepare the work for decision making in the Plenary. There are permanent and non-permanent commissions. They are the body that studies and knows in depth the bills and matters dealt with by the Congress.
- Permanent Deputation
- General Secretariat
One of the most important functions of the Congress is related to the Government.
1º The investiture of the President of the Government: After the general elections, in which the members of the Congress are elected, the King meets with the political groups with parliamentary representation and proposes to the Congress a candidate for President of the Government. The candidate then presents his political program to the plenary and is voted on by the plenary. If he obtains an absolute majority in the first vote or a simple majority in the second vote, the King appoints him as President of the Government. It is important to clarify that the role of the King in this procedure is merely formal, the King will always appoint as president the candidate who has the confidence of the Congress. The electoral regime is mainly regulated in the Ley Organica 5/1985 of June 19, 1085 (called LOREG) and in the Royal Decree 605/1999, April 16, 1999, on complementary regulation of electoral processes.
2º Cessation of the President of the Government: The President of the Government may be removed by the end of his term of office, by death, by resignation or by loss of the confidence of the Congress. The latter is materialized through a motion of censure presented by the members of Congress. This motion of censure is approved by one tenth of the members and must contain another candidate, so that if the motion is approved, the new candidate will be invested. A motion of censure does not simply remove the president, but at the same time appoints a new one.
Since the entry into force of the Spanish Constitution, several motions of censure have been presented in the Congress of Deputies. Only the one carried out in 2018 was successful, removing the previous Prime Minister (Mr. Mariano Rajoy, from the People’s Party (Partido Popular)) from office.
This motion was mainly based on the multiple cases of corruption in which some members of the Peoples Party (Partido Popular) were immersed (the so-called Gürtel case). The aftermath was that the then leader of the opposition, Mr. Pedro Sánchez (from PSOE), who was appointed as President of the Government, was elected. The National High Court on its decision of May 17, 2018 (thereafter ratified by the Supreme Court) disregarded certain criminal responsibility related to some accusations that grounded the motion of censorship but not all of them, and imposed a compensation of €255,000 to the People’s Party (Partido Popular) for its civil liability as a profit-making participant in the benefits obtained by the scheme in the municipalities of Pozuelo de Alarcón and Majadahonda (Madrid). However, the Gürtel Case seems to have been a justification to remove former president Mr. Mariano Rajoy from the government, since subsequently the Supreme Court disregarded in its findings some of the accusations that partially grounded the motion of censorship. Paradoxically, several members of PSOE Andalucia were subsequently sentenced for a corruption case (Caso EREs de Andalucía), due to the embezzlement of 650 million euros that were to be used to grant aid to unemployed people in Andalusia). Recently (March 2023) a new scandal has irrupted in relation with a politician from the PSOE (so called Tito Berni) who allegedly took bribes in exchange for services to companies. See Sandrine Morel, In Spain, Corruption Case Weakens Socialist Party Before Local Elections, Le Monde (March 7, 2023).
3º Control of the work of the Government: The Congress exercises control over the actions of the Government by means of questions and interpellations in plenary sessions in which they are asked to explain their actions.
The Senate (also known as the Upper House), together with the Congress, exercises the legislative function. As a body of territorial representation, it performs important functions related to the Autonomous Communities:
- It is the body that approves cooperation agreements between Autonomous Communities.
- It is responsible for overseeing the legal actions of the Autonomous Communities, ensuring that they comply with the law and the Constitution in all their actions.
- It distributes the Inter-territorial Compensation Fund, which is a general budget item based on the principle of solidarity and cooperation among the Autonomous Communities and is used to correct economic imbalances among them.
The Senate is composed of 265 senators elected by direct suffrage on open lists, according to the following criteria:
- Four senators from each Autonomous Community;
- Two senators from each Autonomous City (i.e., two from Ceuta and two from Melilla);
- Three senators from each of the following islands: Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and Mallorca; and
- One senator from each of the following islands: Ibiza, Formentera, Menorca, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, El Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma.
These senators are organized in a very similar way to the members of Congress: Presidency (convenes, directs, and controls the agenda of the plenary sessions), Bureau (sets the agenda), Board of Spokespersons (proposes the agenda and presents suggestions), Plenary (carries out votes and debates on the approval of laws and international conventions and agreements) and Permanent Deputation.
5.2. Executive Branch
The executive power is held by the Government, consisting of the President, the Vice-Presidents, and the Ministers. In addition, the Constitution leaves the door open for the law to establish more members in the Government. However, as it has not done so, the secretaries of state and other persons who apparently are members of the Government and depend on it, are not really part of the Government.
Article 97 of the Constitution establishes the functions of the Government:
- To direct domestic and foreign policy: this is a very broad set of actions, which allows great freedom of action to the Government. Some examples of actions that fall into this group are supporting norms, taking the legislative initiative, making specific political decisions, designing criminal and economic policy, or decreeing exceptional states.
- To direct the civil and military administration.
- To direct the defense of the State directs the action of the armed forces to guarantee the integrity, independence, and sovereignty of the Spanish State.
- To exercise the executive function and regulatory powers.
Its operation is governed by the following principles:
- Principle of presidential direction: the President determines the guidelines and departments.
- Principle of collegiality: it decides collegially and jointly and severally.
- Departmental principle: the Minister in charge of each department has autonomy and responsibility.
The basic regulation of the Government can be found in the Law 50/1997, November 27, of the Government.
President: The President is formally appointed by the King, although he is elected by the Congress. In the same way, if he loses the confidence of the Congress, he may be dismissed and replaced by the new candidate. By way of summary, the dismissal of the President of the Government may be by the following means:
- General elections
- Loss of parliamentary confidence: it can be produced by two procedures:
- Motion of censure, as we have seen.
- Denial of a question of confidence: Questions of confidence arise on complex occasions in which the President, before carrying out a controversial action, asks for the confidence of Congress to act. They are very risky, since if confidence is not obtained, the whole Government will have to resign.
Vice-President: The number of vice presidents varies, and there may be none. The functions of the vice-presidency are as follows:
- It is the figure that provides direct support to the president in his work.
- It coordinates the ministries, if any. When several vice presidents are appointed, the areas in which each one will coordinate, and consequently the ministries, are usually differentiated.
- Supersedes the president in cases of absence or illness.
- Performs any other duties assigned by the President.
In addition, the Vice President may also be a minister at the same time, in which case he will also carry out the functions of the ministry. If he is removed from office, he does not necessarily have to be replaced; his position may remain vacant.
Ministers: They are those who direct political action in relation to the Ministry in which they are integrated and are the link between the Government and the Administration. They are chosen by the President, but formally appointed by the King. Their functions as senior heads of the Ministry can be summarized as:
- Managing the competencies and work of the members of the Ministry;
- Directing the action and objectives of the Ministry; and
- Having regulatory powers in those aspects that affect their Ministry.
5.3. Judicial Power
Judicial branch is in the hands of judges and magistrates. Both judges and magistrates are judges, but we speak of magistrates when they are part of a collegiate judicial body. It is regulated in Title VI of the Spanish Constitution and Organic Law 6/1985, July 1, of the Judicial Power (LOPJ). Article 117.1 of Constitution sets out the essential characteristics of judges:
- They are independent and are subject only to the law;
- They are irremovable; and
- They are responsible for their decisions.
Furthermore, judges must be objective and impartial. The role of judges in Spain, and in general in Civil Law countries, is very different from that of judges in Common Law countries, since they do not create law, but are limited to judging and enforcing what has been judged. However, the differences between the two types of legal systems will be developed in greater detail later.
Judicial Resolutions: Judges issue rulings (to resolve the matter being judged), providences (for formal and procedural aspects) and autos (which deal with any matter on the merits of the case other than resolving it). Judgements always have the same structure and that they can be classified as final and non-final. All judgments are public, although sometimes, if the situation requires it, data may be omitted and the names of the intervening parties may be changed, to anonymize the resolution.
Article 120 of the Constitution provides that all judgments are public, except for the exceptions provided by the rules of procedure. These exceptions are foreseen for those cases in which the situation requires that certain parts or even the names of the parties be made public. This process of anonymization of decisions may be carried out if it is justified by the need to protect another constitutionally guaranteed legal right. Specifically, the Organic Law of the Judiciary states that:
exceptionally, for reasons of public order and protection of rights and freedoms, the Judges and Courts, by means of a reasoned resolution, may limit the scope of publicity and agree to the secrecy of all or part of the proceeding. (Article 232.3)
Article 681 of the Criminal Procedure Law also states in this regard:
The Judge or Court may agree, ex officio or at the request of any of the parties, after hearing them, that all or some of the acts or sessions of the trial be held in camera, when so required for reasons of security or public order, or the adequate protection of the fundamental rights of the intervening parties, in particular, the right to privacy of the victim, the respect due to the victim or his family, or it is necessary to avoid relevant prejudices to the victims that otherwise could derive from the ordinary development of the process.
Some examples of crimes in which the parties (along with certain additional data) are kept secret would be crimes of gender violence (in order to safeguard their privacy and security), sexual crimes (in which it is common not to include the real names of the victims or witnesses), or crimes whose victims are minors (in order to guarantee their protection and avoid the exposure that this entails).
In conclusion, there are some crimes for which it is understood that it is always important to guarantee the anonymity of the victims and other persons, as well as some other data, and for the rest of the cases, it is the judges who have the power to decide what information is best kept confidential in their judgments, as long as such omissions of data do not affect the essential content of the judgment and are duly justified. Judgements are structured into sections including Heading, Facts (the account of the facts), Statement of applicable law (the most relevant part, since it is the reasoning of the judge), and the ruling. Regarding the different types of judgments, it should be noted that non-firm judgments are those that can be appealed before another body, and firm judgments are those that cannot be appealed.
Legal Aid in Spain: The Constitution guarantees free justice in Article 119. The current conditions to be able to apply for it are:
- Insufficient economic resources.
- Regardless of economic resources:
- Workers to defend their labor rights.
- Victims of terrorism.
- Victims of gender violence.
- Victims of human trafficking.
- Mentally handicapped persons who have suffered abuse or mistreatment.
Public defense lawyers are those who work for the free justice system. All lawyers can sign up for the duty of attorney's office, but they must consider that only the lawyers of the criminal duty of attorney's office can reject a case for just personal reasons that will be analyzed by the Dean of the Bar Association in which the lawyer is registered.
The Organization of Judicial Orders: In Spain there are five jurisdictional orders: civil, criminal, contentious-administrative (regulated in Law 29/1998, of July 13, 1998, regulating the Contentious-Administrative Jurisdiction), social (regulated in Law 36/2011, of October 10, 2011, regulating the social jurisdiction), and military (regulated in Organic Law 4/1987, July 15, 1987, on the Jurisdiction and Organization of the Military Jurisdiction). The Spanish State is organized judicially into municipalities, districts (territorial units formed by one or more neighboring municipalities), provinces and autonomous communities, each of which has different courts:
|Courts of Violence against Women
|Courts of Instruction
|Courts of First Instruction
|Province (Provincial Council)
|Penitentiary Surveillance Courts
|Superior Courts of Justice
|National High Court
In addition, the Constitutional Court is responsible for determining whether it is in accordance with the Spanish Constitution. The main regulation of the Constitutional Court are the Title IX of the Spanish Constitution and the Organic Law 2/1979, October 3, 1979, of the Constitutional Court. As for the popular jury, its presence in the Spanish legal system is relatively recent (contrary to what happens in the Common Law). It is made up of nine jurors and two alternates. It is only used in certain criminal cases, and only rules on the guilt or innocence of the accused. The typology of the crime and the penalty will be determined by the Judge who conducts the trial.
The Crown: The Head of State is the King (currently Felipe VI). The figure of the King is inviolable. Although on paper he exercises numerous functions, his role is merely representative of Spain in national and international events. The succession to the crown has given rise to a recent controversy pursuant to the black letter of Article 57 of the Constitution setting the following rules of succession:
- First, the most direct lines of succession take precedence over the most remote;
- Second, in the same line, the closest degree of kinship takes precedence over the most distant;
- Third, in equality of degree (siblings), men have priority over women; and
- Fourth, in gender equality, the older ones take precedence.
The third point is the most controversial given that Spaniards cannot be discriminated based on their gender (article 14 of the Spanish Constitution) and keeping this rule while still limited to the Crown it is an awkward legal anomaly. In this sense, many scholars have pointed out the need to carry a reform disregarding the gender from the succession rules. In fact, when Her Royal Highness the Princess of Asturias Leonor de Borbón Ortiz, the eldest daughter of Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia was born, several discussions took place in furtherance of reforming the Spanish Constitution to abolish this rule and make the Princess of Asturias the heir to the throne even in the case of the birth of a male child afterwards. However, this reform was never implemented because eventually the King had only two daughters (Their Royal Highness Leonor and Sofia) prevailing in this case the eldest descendant, and the hurdles involving a reform of the Constitution with the sole purpose of amending the succession rules of the Crown, mainly the risk that such reform could be politically construed by some political parties as a purported referendum affecting the monarchy itself. Regardless, however, it is not surprising that a constitutional reform to abolish this provision that gives priority to men over women on the throne will be raised again soon.
6. Legal System
Next, we will discuss the Spanish legal system. First, we will make a brief comparison between the Civil Law legal system and the Common Law. Secondly, we will present the different legal texts existing in the Spanish legal system. The sources of the Spanish law are settled in Article 1 of the Spanish Civil Code:
- Custom: It applies in the absence of applicable law. Custom cannot be contrary to morality or public order to be a source of law. The Civil Code also adds that custom shall be proved by the party applying it.
- General principles of law: these are the subsidiary criteria, as they only apply in the absence of applicable law and custom.
About the role of jurisprudence or case law in Spain, the Civil Code indicates that its role is to complement the legal system with the doctrine established by the Supreme Court when interpreting and applying the law, custom and general principles of law (article 1.7 of the Civil Code).
6.1. Comparison between Civil Law and Common Law
The most significant difference between Civil Law and Common Law is in the work of judges with respect to the creation of law. While in Common Law systems the judge creates law through precedent, in Civil Law systems the source of law creation is the Parliament, and the division between legislative and judicial power is absolute, so that judges simply apply the law. Therefore, in Civil Law systems the number of laws is much higher.
This difference, like all differences, has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, reserving legislative power to a parliament elected by universal suffrage generates a higher degree of legal superiority to the system and the resulting laws may be better received as the indirect result of popular consensus. However, the ability of judges to create law through their pronouncements allows the law to adapt more quickly to the practical reality of society and limits the bureaucracy that surrounds legal texts in systems such as the Spanish one. Notwithstanding the above, in Spain there is a growing tendency to give judges the freedom to "interpret" laws, as a faster method of adapting to the changing society.
Another important difference between the U.S. and Spanish systems is the freedom of the parties to a contractual relationship. While in the United States the freedom of the parties takes precedence, in Spain there are numerous rules to protect individuals, and which therefore represent a limit of a paternalistic nature in their contractual relationships. In fact, there are transactions that are mandatorily governed by the legislator and subject to reflection periods to ensure that the individual understands and is aware of the legal consequences of the contract to be signed (e.g., a mortgage loan entered by individuals).
Another noteworthy difference relates to the role of the popular jury in both systems. In the U.S. system, the popular jury adopts a verdict on guilt or innocence (acquittal) for each crime of which the defendant is accused, therefore it pronounces on a legal aspect (the criminal typology). In Spain, and in the rest of the countries that follow the Civil Law system, the separation of powers must be strict and mandatory in all areas; therefore, judges are the only ones with judicial power; therefore, it would not be possible for a group of people to decide on the application of the law. Consequently, the jury in Spain can only pronounce on the guilt or innocence of the defendant on the commission of the facts reported at trial. Based on the jury's decision, the judge will adopt the verdict, indicate the crime to which the act corresponds, and dictate the penalty. The popular jury is regulated in the Organic Act 5/1995, May 22, of the Jury Court.
6.2. Sources of Law in Spain
6.2.1. The Spanish Constitution
The Spanish Constitution is the basic and supreme rule of the Spanish legal system. The first Spanish Constitution is dated on March 19, 1812 (popularly called “La Pepa”). The current Constitution was approved on December 6, 1978. See the official English translation of the Spanish Constitution as published in the Official Gazzete (BOE). All laws must be in accordance with the constitutional precepts, and any behavior contrary to them will not be tolerated. Its content can be divided mainly into 3 sections:
- An organic part in which the organs of the country are regulated,
- A dogmatic part in which the fundamental rights are regulated, and
- A set of fundamental political decisions, which correspond to the political principles governing the country. There is no hierarchy between the different parts.
The Constitutional Court is the judicial body that carries out the interpretation and defense of the Constitution.
Amendments to the Spanish Constitution: Since its approval in 1978, the Spanish Constitution has been amended twice to comply with the European Union regulation or demands. First, in 1992, to establish passive suffrage in the local elections (i.e., municipalities) for nationals from other EU countries who have their residence in Spain. Second, in 2011, to introduce a limit to public deficit for the central and regional governments including budget stability principles according mainly to the principles set forth at the European level (“the golden rule”). This amendment was part of the strategy proposed by the European Union to solve the effects of the global financial crisis.
Despite constitutional reforms are a complex and lengthy procedure (which is regulated by the Title X, Articles 166 to 169), future amendments of the Spanish Constitution are expected.
- It is quite likely a reform of the crown succession rules (Article 57) in the sense explained before.
- On another note, there are current discussions to amend Article 49 of the Constitution that speaks of disabled people, a term that all sectors involved, and most political parties now reject, believing that it is more appropriate to speak of disability or different abilities. Apparently, the current opposition lead by the People’s Party (Partido Popular) seems to be reluctant to engage in the reform upon its fears that could disguise the separatist and extreme left parties’ intent to introduce a self-determination right of the regions or enabling a referendum that could attempt to overcome the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation (Article 1) or other basic principles of the Spanish Constitution.
Fundamental Rights and Duties: Fundamental rights and duties are regulated in Title I of the Spanish Constitution. The first and most relevant is the one contained in Article 15: the right to life and physical and moral integrity. We say that it is the most important because the existence of the others is based on this right. Among others, it is the basis for the abolition of the death penalty in Spain.
Article 16 guarantees ideological, religious, and religious freedom. In addition, this article declares the non-confessional nature of the Spanish State, but the duty of the State to cooperate with the various religious denominations.
- Article 17 guarantees the right to freedom and security.
- Article 18 contains the right to honor, to personal and family privacy and to one's own image. It also declares the inviolability of the home, the secrecy of communications and the limitation of the use of information technology to guarantee these rights.
- Article 19 declares that Spaniards have the right to freely choose their residence and to move within the national territory, as well as to freely enter and leave Spain.
- Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 20, which includes:
- The right to freely express and disseminate thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
- The right to literary, artistic, scientific, and technical production and creation.
- The freedom to teach.
- The right to freely communicate or receive truthful information.
- Article 21 recognizes the right to peaceful and unarmed assembly, without prior authorization, unless it takes place in places of public transit or may disturb public order.
- Article 22 recognizes the right of association.
- Article 23 proclaims the right of citizens to participate in public affairs, directly or through representatives, freely chosen in periodic elections by universal suffrage.
- Article 24 guarantees the right to effective judicial protection. Article 25 guarantees the right not to be convicted or punished for actions or omissions that at the time of their occurrence do not constitute a crime, misdemeanor, or infraction.
- Article 27 recognizes the right to education and freedom of education. It also includes the obligation of the public authorities to guarantee parents that their children will receive the religious and moral formation of their choice.
- Article 28 guarantees the right to unionize freely (without any obligation to do so) but qualifies that it may be limited or exempted in the Armed Forces. This article also recognizes the right to strike.
- Article 29 declares the right of individual and collective petition.
6.3. Organic Laws
Organic laws are those that are approved by an absolute majority of the plenary of the Congress of Deputies, in a vote on the totality of the text presented. The Spanish Constitution defines organic laws in Article 81:
1. Organic laws are those relating to the development of fundamental rights and public freedoms, those approving the Statutes of Autonomy and the general electoral regime and the others provided for in the Constitution.
2. The approval, modification or repeal of organic laws shall require an absolute majority of the Congress, in a final vote on the bill as a whole.
As can be seen, there are some matters that the Constitution considers reserved for regulation by organic law, since they are more sensitive, and it is preferred that they be regulated by this stricter procedure. When we speak of "fundamental rights and public liberties" we are referring to those contained in Section I Chapter II Paragraph 1 of the Constitution (as the Constitutional Court has pointed out).
The Statutes of Autonomy are special organic laws since they cannot be modified or amend other organic laws in the usual way. As for the electoral regime, the Constitutional Court has pointed out that it includes all types of elections (from general to local) that are held.
6.3.1. Other Types of Laws
Basic Law: These are laws passed by Congress to delegate the power to legislate on a specific matter to the Government. The basic law must be very specific and must not include reserved matters. The norm to be approved by the Government is called Legislative Decree.
Harmonization Law: Harmonization laws are those enacted to create legal harmony among the Autonomous Communities, and their approval is required in the general interest, analyzed, and declared by the Cortes Generales.
Budget Law: This is a special law that is approved once a year and contains the General State Budget. It is prepared by the Government, which submits it at least three months prior to the expiration of the previous year's budgets to Congress for approval. If it is not approved before the expiration of the previous year's budgets, it is automatically extended. The Constitution only prohibits the creation of taxes in the Budget, which has served to distort the Budget Law for years. The Government illegitimately uses the Budget Law to establish all kinds of rules.
Ordinary Laws: These are the most common legislative texts, which are approved by the Cortes Generales (the Parliament).
Decree-Laws and Legislative Decrees: Royal Decree-Laws are issued by the Government in cases of extraordinary and urgent necessity, which may deal with practically any matter except those aspects reserved to be legislated by organic law. They have their origin in the German "Ordinances of Necessity" of the 20th century.
Although the Constitution is very clear about the basic presupposition of these norms (extraordinary and urgent necessity), it is an instrument that all governments have been using at will to legislate. This action, although it is illicit, is very common and widespread, and breaks the sacred separation of powers between the legislative and executive powers. This legislative malpractice has diminished the technical quality of the laws, weakening the principle of legal certainty (principio de seguridad jurídica) protected by Article 9.3 of the Spanish Constitution. However, the Constitutional Court has declared the unconstitutionality of some of these decrees (e.g., Constitutional Court Rulings 14/2020, 110/2021, 111/2021).
Legislative decrees, on the other hand, are the rules resulting from the basic laws as we have mentioned. Contrary to what happened with the Decree-Laws, approximately 65 legislative decrees have been approved since their creation, almost all of them to recast legislation that was dispersed in different legal texts.
Regulations: Regulations are rules of lower rank than laws, which establish specific rules and guidelines. The regulatory function is exercised by the Government.
European Union Laws: Spain is part of the European Union and is therefore governed by its rules. Although some place the law of the Union above the Constitution in a hierarchical order, others consider that it is more appropriate to place them at the same level, since neither can contradict the other, as can be seen in the constitutional reform that had to be made to allow other European Union citizens residing in Spain to vote in the elections, as we have seen. In the European Union we find both primary and secondary law. Original law (also called primary law) is that which originates in the Treaties. Secondary law includes all subsequent regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations, and opinions of the European Union.
- Regulations: these are rules that apply automatically in all the countries of the European Union.
- Directives: these are rules that set objectives. Countries will have to adopt rules to achieve these objectives.
- Decisions: These are binding rules for specific addressees.
- Recommendations: these are non-binding pronouncements by certain institutions on how a Union rule should be interpreted or acted upon.
- Opinions: these are non-binding and are issued by certain Union institutions to develop their opinion on certain obligations.
6.3.2. General Provisions About Laws in Spain
In Spain, the publicity of laws is a basic requirement for their validity (Articles 91 and 96 of the Spanish Constitution). All regulations are published in the “Official Gazette of the State” (Boletín Oficial del Estado; BOE), or, in the case of regulations issued by the legislative bodies of the autonomous communities, in their Official Gazettes. Otherwise, the rule would never enter into force (as stated in Article 2 of the Civil Code).
In the case of European Union’s rules, they will also be published directly or through their transposition norm, depending on the nature of the same. Nevertheless, the European Union has its own gazette called “Official Journal of the European Union” (Diario Oficial de la Unión europea; DUE).
7. Weakening Process of the Spanish Democracy: “Non omne quod licet honestum est”
The democracy in Spain is going through a deterioration process mainly caused by the interferences of the executive branch (i.e., Government) in the powers of the legislative and judiciary branch. Indeed, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy 2021 report, downgraded the Spanish democracy from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy.” See the Democracy Index 2021: Less Than Half the World Lives in a Democracy (Feb 10, 2022).
At the time of writing this article (January 2023), the government led by Mr. Pedro Sánchez stands with the minority support of a myriad of political parties belonging to the extreme left arena along with nationalist and pro-independence political parties. Most of these political parties do not share the spirit of the consensus reached in 1978 by most of the politicians and therefore do not abide by the bulk of the Spanish Constitution principles. This situation has led the Government to engage in actions that have been qualified as controversial from a constitutional standpoint. The Report on the State of the Rule of Law in Spain (2018-2021) Executive summary issued by the foundation Hay Derecho (the “Report”), indicates that the rule of law in Spain has been called into question.
In this sense, the Report states that “[…] This deterioration leads to less oversight of the executive branch, due to the partisan occupation of counterweight institutions. The serious situation of the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial), about which even international bodies and the European Union itself have issued warnings, is the tip of the iceberg in this process of constant deterioration. Another striking issue is the consequent and gradual decline in the importance of Parliament, which is relegated to a very secondary and auxiliary role in terms of both legislative tasks, given the predominance of executive decrees, and the role of oversight and accountability concerning political representatives. The separation of powers also suffers not only from the lack of the judicial bodies’ ability to enforce their rulings and final resolutions when they are contrary to the interests of the government or political party in power, but also from structural problems due to a lack of sufficient resources. The revolving doors between politics and justice also do not contribute to improving the image of the judiciary. The situation of the State Prosecutor General’s Office is not much better. There are no strong checks against this situation, which is not exclusive to Spain, but which has its own specific characteristics in the country. The institutions are subject to a distribution of party-based quotas that undermines not only their independence but also their professionalism; it is no coincidence that the Court of Auditors has failed to detect Spain’s major corruption scandals, particularly those linked to corruption of political parties, and that the Constitutional Court has postponed the preparation of rulings that are highly politically charged. As we have attempted to highlight throughout the study, not only with specific examples that illustrate the situation but also with quantitative data, it is no coincidence that Spain’s position in the international rankings that compile relevant indicators on the functioning of states subject to the rule of law is in decline.”
Some of the issues highlighted in the Report relate to the following matters:
The politicization of the judiciary: The politicization of the judiciary and the situation affecting the renewal of the members of the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) has been a significant issue due to the lack of understanding of the two largest political parties. Eventually, the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary took place in January 2023 giving rise a progressive majority as it was chased by the Government.
Interference of politicians in unfavorable rulings: The interference of politicians (including some ministers of the Government) in the result of unfavorable rulings scorning those issued against their interest. As pointed out in the Report, this behavior contributes to undermining the legitimacy of the judiciary power and it breaks the principle of institutional loyalty between the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches.
Appointment of politicians to relevant positions in the Judiciary branch: The so-called “revolving doors” between the political sphere and the judiciary have become a growing problem. In the last years, the government has appointed the former ministers of justice as the general prosecutor (Fiscal General del Estado) (2020-2022) and as judge of the Constitutional Court (January 2023). We should mention that these appointments were heavily criticized because whilst they did not break the law, they involved the appointments of officers subject to a reasonable suspicion of not being neutral which triggers a risk of being politically biased. According to the Report, “the comings and goings between the political world and the judiciary endanger its members’ independence and impartiality, or at least the appearance thereof.”
Pardons: One of the most controversial decisions of the Government relates to the pardon (indulto) granted by the president. Whilst pardon’s right is vested in the Government this is not arbitrary and the defendants and/or crimes ought to meet specific criteria. Some of the pardons granted were surrounded by a shadow of arbitrariness after being granted against the opinion of the trial court or the Public Prosecutor, or both. Pardons – granted by the Executive branch - interfere in the work of the Judiciary, as it means that the execution of final judgements can be annulled.
In 2021, the Government granted a pardon to some separatist politicians forgiving the crimes and penalties set by the Spanish Supreme Court after a long trial. The pardon included the crimes committed within the illegal secessionist referendum. Such pardon was granted even though such politicians stated that they will engage again in the same activities that led them to imprisonment, and the pardon was granted against the opinion of the Public Prosecutor's Office. Additionally, the Government has repealed the crime of sedition after an agreement with separatist political parties, thus paving the way for the organization of future illegal referendums with little or no consequences. According to the latest polls, support for independence has dropped drastically and is lower than the number of Catalans in favor of remaining part of Spain. See El noa la independencia en Catalunya se dispara y supera en mas de 10 puntos al si, La Vanguardia (July 28, 2022). Either a legal referendum (promoted by the Government) or and illegal one (promoted solely by the government of an Autonomous Community) would violate Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution (i.e., the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible country of all Spaniards). Hence only an amendment to the Spanish Constitution passed with a majority in a referendum would enable the separation of a particular region (either Catalonia or any other whatsoever). Nevertheless, a separation of such a region would automatically remove it from the European Union status.
The Executive Decree as an “ordinary” means of legislating: We refer to what has already been mentioned in the discussion of the decree laws.
Delay in complying with the EU regulation transposition duties: The Member States of the European Union undertakes to take “any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfillment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union” (Article 4 of the TFEU), including the transposition of European Union Directives, which is subject to a two-year grace period. The delay in complying with the transposition obligations has involved sanctions of up to EUR 20,000,000 that are charged to the national budget. As a matter of fact, Spain leads the ranking of non-compliers in the transposition of European regulations.
Delays in the execution of final judgments: Spain is one of the countries with a higher level of expenditure on the judiciary. However, the low ratio of judges together with an inefficient allocation of resources has given rise to quite long delays in the execution of final judgments which take an average of between six and 12 months.
Constitutional Court: The Constitutional Court is a jurisdictional body that is responsible for enforcing the primacy of the Constitution over any other laws or regulations, its interpretation and exercising control over the constitutionality of laws. The constitutional court acts as a negative legislator holding the power to expel any laws or provisions contrary to the legal system, through an unconstitutional declaration.
In 2023, the Government elected members to form a “progressive” majority against the former “conservative” majority, thereby undermining the idea that the role of the Constitutional Court is to act as a counterweight regardless of the ideology of the executive branch. Furthermore, - as highlighted by the Report - the Constitutional Court’s discretion to delay the handling of some appeals, circumvents its role as the foremost interpreter of the Constitution.
8. The Legal Profession in Spain
In Spain, in order to become a lawyer, the following requirements must be fulfilled: first, you must have a law degree; second, you must obtain a master's degree; third, you must pass the official state exam; fourth, you must be admitted to the Bar Association of the place where you are going to practice law; and fifth, you must pay the fees to become a practicing member of the Bar Association.
If the candidate does not want to practice law, the candidate can be a non-practicing lawyer and provide legal advice, for example, as in house lawyer. The most common career opportunities for lawyers in Spain are:
- Practicing as a self-employed lawyer or in a law firm;
- Working as a public defender (which can be combined with other professional careers);
- Legal advisor to a company;
- Solicitor (representing private parties in court proceedings);
- University professor in a law school; and
- Holding a public office (such as State Attorney, Public Prosecutor, Judge, Notary, Land Registrar, Diplomat, and others).
- State Attorneys are lawyers who work for the Spanish State acting as defenders of the interests of the State in specific proceedings.
- State Prosecutors who ensure respect for and compliance with the law and the values of the State, and the defense of fundamental rights and freedoms.
- Notaries are those who ensure the authenticity and legal validity of documents.
Some prominent law schools to earn a law degree and the qualifying master's degree (as well as other complementary master's degrees) are:
- Universidad Pontificia de Comillas (ICADE)
- Instituto de Empresa (IE)
- Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
- Universidad Complutense de Madrid Law School
- Universidad Carlos III
- Universidad de Barcelona
- Universidad de Navarra (UNAV; IESE)
- Universitat Pompeu Fabra
- Universitat Autonoma de BarcelonaDEUSTO
- Universidad CEU San Pablo
- Summer School: Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo
- Universidad de Valencia
There are also universities offering education online:
- Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) Law School
- Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)
To conclude, we would like to include a list of the most used Spanish legal researchers:
- Aranzadi (Spanish Westlaw)
- La Ley
- Editorial Bosh (La Ley)
- Tirant lo Blanch
- Lex Nova
- Librería Jurídica Editorial Bosch
- Marcial Pons
- Economist & Jurist Gruop
- El Derecho (Lefebvre)
9.1. Secondary Sources
- PRIMER INFORME SOBRE EL ESTADO DE DERECHO EN ESPAÑA (2018-2021) – Foundation Hay Derecho
- Report on the state of the rule of law in Spain (2018-2021) Executive Summary – Hay Derecho
- Casado-Pérez, O. C.-P. (2011). Update: Guide to legal research in Spain. GlobalLex, 1-19.
- Díez-Picazo, L. M. (1994). Sources of law in Spain: an outline.
- Garrido Mayol, Vicente (2003, actualized in 2006). Synopsis article 148 of the Spanish Constitution
- Garrido Mayol, Vicente (2003, actualized in 2006). Synopsis article 149 of the Spanish Constitution
- Jerez Delgado, C (2005). Publicidad de las normas y técnica legislativa en la sociedad de la información. Anuario de derecho civil, 765-812.
- Martí Sánchez, Sylvia (2003, actualized in 2011). Synopsis article 120 of the Spanish Constitution.
- Mendizábal, I. N. (n.d.). Derecho de Obligaciones y Contratos. Madrid: Civitas Ediciones & Thomsom Reuters.
- Fernández-Miranda Campoamor, Alfonso (Catedrático de Derecho Constitucional. Universidad Complutense de Madrid) "La reforma estatutaria y constitucional", edición nº 1, Editorial LA LEY, Madrid, November 2009.
- González-Trevijano, Pedro (Catedrático de Derecho Constitucional. Rector de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), Diario La Ley, Nº 7072, Sección Tribuna, 9 de Diciembre de 2008, Año XXIX, Ref. D-359, Editorial LA LEY, LA LEY 41196/2008
- Ruiz Miguel, Alfonso & Laporta, Francisco J. (1997), Precedent in Spain, Routledge
- Valiente, F. T. (1984). Manual de Historia del Derecho Español. Tecnos.
- Vallejo, J. (2017). Manual de historia del derecho. Tirant Lo Blanch.
- Vélez, M. I. (2016). Lecciones de Derecho Constitucional. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch.
- Walton, C. S. (1983). The Civil Law in Spain and Spanish-America. Рипол Классик.
9.2. Legal Texts (Spanish)
- Spanish Constitution.
- Royal Decree of July 24, 1889, publishing the Civil Code.
- Organic Law 2/1979, October 3, 1979, of the Constitutional Court
- Organic Law 4/1987, July 15, 1987, on the Jurisdiction and Organization of the Military Jurisdiction
- Law 36/2011, of October 10, 2011, regulating the social jurisdiction
- Law 29/1998, of July 13, 1998, regulating the Contentious-Administrative Jurisdiction
- Organic Law 6/1985, July 1, of the Judicial Power (LOPJ)
- Law 50/1997, November 27, of the Government
- Royal Decree 605/1999, April 16, 1999, on complementary regulation of electoral processes.
- Organic Law 5/1985, June 19, about the General Electoral Regime
- Organic Act 5/1995, May 22, of the Jury Court
- Resolution of February 24, 1982, ordering the publication in the "Official State Gazette" of the new Regulations of the Congress of Deputies.
- English translation of Legal Regulations issued by the Ministry of Justice of Spain
9.3. Selected Laws of Spain by Subject
- Act 38-1988, 28 December, on demarcations and organisation of the judicial institutions (Ley 38/1988, de 28 de diciembre, de demarcación y de planta judicial)
- Organic Act 7/1980, of 5 July, on Freedom of Religion (Ley Orgánica 7/1980, de 5 de julio, de libertad de religión)
- Act 54/2007, of December 28th, on Intercountry Adoption-Ley 54/2007, de 28 de diciembre, de Adopción internacional
- Law 10/2012, of 20 November, governing certain fees in the Area of the Administration of Justice and the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Science (Ley de Tasas) (PDF. 969 KB)
- Spanish Civil Code (Código Civil)
- The Intellectual Property Act (Ley de Propiedad Intelectual) (PDF. 1,56 MB)
- Legal protection of children and young people organic Act 1-1996, dated January 15, which partially modifies the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure act (Ley Orgánica 1/1996, de 15 de enero, de protección jurídica del menor, de modificación parcial)
- Code of Comerce (Código de Comercio) (PDF. 2,12 MB)
- Consolidated text of the general consumer and user Protection Act and other complementary laws (Ley de protección de consumidores y usuarios) (PDF. 871 KB)
- Revised Text of the General Law for the Protection of Consumers and Users (Ley General para la Defensa de Consumidores y Usuarios) (PDF. 1,71 MB)
- Act of June 8th, 1957 on Civil Registry-Ley de 8 de junio de 1957 sobre el Registro Civil
- Act 21/2014, dated November 4, by which the Intellectual Property Act (Ley 21/2014, de 4 de noviembre, por la que se modifica el texto refundido de la Ley de propiedad intelectual)
- Decree of 14th November 1958 approving the regulations of Civil Registration Act (Decreto de 14 de noviembre de noviembre de 1958 por el que se aprueba el reglamento de la Ley del Registro Civil)
- Act 19-2015, dated July 13, on Administrative Reform Arrangements in the areas of Civil Registry Office and Administration of Justice (Ley 19-2015, de 13 de julio, de medidas de reforma administrativa en el ámbito de la Administración de Justicia)
- Legal protection of children and young people organic Act 1-1996, dated January 15, which partially modifies the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure act (Ley Orgánica 1/1996, de 15 de enero, de protección jurídica del menor, de modificación parcial)
- Act 28-1998 of 13 July on instalment sales of moveable assets (Ley 28-1998, de 13 de julio, de venta a plazos de bienes muebles)
- Act 16/2011, of 24 June, on Consumer Credit Contracts (Ley 16/2011, de 24 de junio, de contratos de crédito al consumo)
- Royal Decree 1828/1999, 3 december, which approves the regulation for the general conditions of contract registry (Real Decreto 1828/1999, de 3 de diciembre, por el que se aprueba el reglamento del registro de condiciones generales de la contratación)
Civil Litigation and Bankruptcy
- Act on mediation in civil and commercial matters (Ley 5/2012, de mediación en asuntos civiles y mercantiles) (PDF. 1,28 MB)
- Act on Insolvency (Ley Concursal) (PDF. 2,13 MB)
- Act on arbitration (Ley 60/2003, de arbitraje) (PDF. 1.001 KB)
- Law 1-2000 of 7 January on Civil Procedure (Enjuiciamiento Civil) 2015
- Act 10/2012, of November 20th, governing certain fees in the area of the Administration of Justice and the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences
- Chattel mortgage and non-possessory pledge act of 16 december 1954 (Ley de 16 de diciembre de 1954, sobre hipoteca mobiliaria y prenda sin desplazamiento de posesión)
Criminal Law & Criminal Litigation
- Criminal code (Código penal)
- ORGANIC ACT 5/1995, DATED MAY 22, ON JURY COURT (Ley Orgánica 5/1995, de 22 de mayo, del Tribunal del Jurado)
- Organic Act 5/1995, on the Jury (Ley Orgánica del Tribunal del Jurado) (PDF. 1,01 MB)
- Organic Act for Effective Equality Between Women and Men (Ley de Igualdad) (PDF. 1,02 MB)
- Organic Act of Protection Measures against Gender Violence (Ley contra la Violencia de Género) (PDF. 1,47 MB)
- Organic Act 18/2003 of 10 December on Cooperation with the Intenational Criminal Court (Ley de cooperación con la Corte Penal Internacional) (PDF. 869 KB)
- Criminal Procedure Act 2016 (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Penal)
- Law 4/2015, of 27 April, on the standing of victims of crime (Estatuto de la víctima del delito)
- Royal Legislative decree 1/2010, of 2 july, approving the consolidated text of the corporate enterprises act (Real Decreto Legislativo 1/2010 por el que se aprueba el texto refundido de la Ley de Sociedades de Capital.
- Act 3/2009, of April 3, on structural changes in corporations (Ley 3/2009, de 3 de abril, sobre modificaciones estructurales de las sociedades mercantiles)
- 13/2015 Act, dated June 24, related to the reform of the Mortgage Act approved by Decree dated February 8, 1946; and to the consolidated text of the Real Estate Cadastre Act, approved by Royal Legislative Decree 1/2004, dated March 5 (Reforma hipotecaria)
- Decree of February 14th 1947 Approving the Mortgage Regulations - Decreto de 14 de febrero de 1947 por el que se aprueba el Reglamento Hipotecario
European Law and Administrative Law
- Royal Decree approving the regulations relating to Constitucional Act on Personal Data Protection (Reglamento de desarrollo de la Ley Orgánica de Protección de Datos de Carácter Personal) (PDF. 1,69 MB)
- Organic Act 2/2003;Act 3/2003 on the European Arrest Warrant (Ley sobre la Orden Europea de Detención y Entrega) (PDF. 1,49 MB)
- Act 23/2014, of 20 November, on mutual recognition of judicial decisions in criminal matters in the European Union (Ley de reconocimiento mutuo de resoluciones penales en la U.E.) (PDF. 979 KB)
- Act on the Jurisdiction for Judicial Review (Jurisdicción Contencioso Administrativa) (PDF. 748 KB)
- Constitucional Act on Personal Data Protection (Protección de Datos de Carácter Personal) (PDF. 1,51 MB)
- Act 14/2014, dated 24th july, on Maritime Navigation (Ley de Navegación Marítima) (PDF. 819 KB)
 Motions of censorship since 1978:
On 29 May 1980 against Mr. Adolfo Suárez (filed by Mr. Felipe González);
On 22 June 1987 against Mr. Felipe González (filed by Mr. Antonio Hernández Mancha);
On 25 May 1988 against Mr. Felipe González (filed by Alianza Popular);
On 22 May 1991 against Mr. Felipe González (filed by Mr. Carlos Ollero);
On 17 June 1993 against Mr. Felipe González (filed by Mr. Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida);
On 27 May 1995 against Mr. Felipe González (filed by Partido Popular);
On 21 June 2000 against Mr. José María Aznar (filed by Mr. Joaquín Almunia);
On 19 May 2005 against Mr. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (filed by Mr. Mariano Rajoy);
On 22 June 2010 against Mr. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (filed by Mr. Mariano Rajoy);
On 13 June 2017 against Mr. Mariano Rajoy (filed by Podemos);
On 31 May 2018 against Mr. Mariano Rajoy (filed by Mr. Pedro Sánchez);
On 21 May 2019 against Mr. Pedro Sánchez (filed by Partido Popular and Ciudadanos);
On 22 October 2020 against Mr. Pedro Sánchez (filed by Vox);
On 10 October 2021 against Mr. Pedro Sánchez (filed by Vox); and
On 20 March 2023 against Mr. Pedro Sánchez (filed by Vox).
 First regulated in the Organic Law 8/1980, September 22, of the financing of the Autonomous Communities (called “LOFCA”), that has been replaced by the Organic Law 22/2001, December 21, regulating the Inter-territorial Compensation Funds.
 Madrid has provided in 2022 the 70% of the funds of the Inter-territorial Compensation Fund, followed by Catalonia providing the 27%.
 The Organic Law 5/1995, of May 22, 1995, of the Jury Court establishes the cases in which the popular jury is to be empaneled:
- Omission of the duty to assist
- Breaking and entering
- Infidelity in the custody of documents
- Influence peddling
- Embezzlement of public funds
- Fraud and illegal exactions
- Negotiations prohibited to civil servants
- Of infidelity in the custody of prisoners
 Pedro GONZÁLEZ-TREVIJANO (Catedrático de Derecho Constitucional. Rector de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), Diario La Ley, Nº 7072, Sección Tribuna, December 9, 2008, Año XXIX, Ref. D-359, Editorial LA LEY, LA LEY 41196/2008. See also Alfonso FERNÁNDEZ-MIRANDA CAMPOAMOR (Catedrático de Derecho Constitucional. Universidad Complutense de Madrid) "La reforma estatutaria y constitucional", edición nº 1, Editorial LA LEY, Madrid, November 2009.
 In this sense, the Constitutional Court considered that the curfew was implemented by the Government using the wrong constitutional path. For instance, on July 14, 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled on the unconstitutionality of some of the provisions of Royal Decree 463/2020, March 14, declaring a state of alarm for the management of the health crisis caused by COVID-19. Likewise, some provisions of Royal Decree 926/2020, October 25 were also disregarded.