Researching the Law of the Spanish Autonomous Communities
By Julienne E. Grant
Julienne E. Grant serves as Reference Librarian/Foreign & International Research Specialist at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library. She has published articles in Legal Reference Services Quarterly and the International Journal of Legal Information. She also co-authored a chapter (with Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns) for the forthcoming title, Latin American Collection Concepts: Essays on Libraries, Collaborations and New Approaches (McFarland, 2018). In addition, Ms. Grant is a regular contributor to the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog. She is a member of the FCIL-SIS and served as Chair of its Latin American Law Interest Group from 2013 to 2017. Ms. Grant earned a B.A. magna cum laude in Spanish from Middlebury College; an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; an M.A.L.S. from Rosary College (now Dominican University); and a J.D. cum laude from DePaul University. She spent her junior year as an undergraduate studying in Madrid, Spain.
The author would like to thank Professor Ana Mercedes López Rodríguez, Head of the Law Department and Associate Professor of Private Law at the Universidad Loyola Andalucía, for her helpful suggestions.
Published March 2019
Table of Contents
- 1. Historical Background
- 2. Research Overview
- 3. Introductory Materials
- 4. Electronic Research Guides
- 5. Primary Sources of Law
- 6. Court Decisions
- 7. Secondary Sources
- 8. Current Awareness: News Sources & Blogs
- 9. Human Rights
- 10. The Autonomous Communities in the Global Arena
- 11. Digital Archives & Historical Material
- 12. Bar Associations
- 13. U.S. Law Libraries with Noteworthy Collections
Spain is a country with vast regional differences—culturally, linguistically, economically, politically, and historically. These differences have developed over many centuries and can be traced to ancient kingdoms and medieval territories of the Iberian Peninsula. Prior to Spain’s War of Independence (1808–1814), several monarchs tried to unify these areas with different levels of success. Indeed, during Spain’s early history, “the distinct territories retained varying degrees of autonomy, including the application of their unique legal traditions.” These traditions included “foral law,” or fueros, which were based on local custom and practice.
The War of Independence evoked a new sense of Spanish nationalism and prompted an effort to end the country’s absolute monarchy. In 1810, a Spanish parliament convened in the city of Cádiz to address the country’s political situation and draft Spain’s first constitution (the “Cádiz Constitution”). Among other stipulations, the Cádiz Constitution (approved March 19, 1812) called for the codification of Spain’s private law. The country’s long tradition of foral law, however, hampered attempts to create a unified civil code; it was not until 1889 that the first Spanish civil code went into effect. The code, which was heavily influenced by France’s Code Napoléon, “systemized Spanish civil law while preserving the use of foral laws.” Although amended and reformed over the years, the 1889 civil code is still in force.
Political uncertainty and regime changes continued to plague Spain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During this time, Spaniards continued to experiment with diverse forms of government, the role of the monarchy, and the levels of autonomy of Spain’s various regions. The 1931 Constitution, promulgated during the Second Republic (1931–1939), granted Spain’s regions the right to seek autonomy in the form of autonomous regions within the Spanish State. And, although it recognized Spanish (Castellano) as the nation’s official language, the 1931 Constitution acknowledged the right of Spaniards to utilize minority regional languages (such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque). After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), however, dictator Francisco Franco demanded political centralization, revoking many of the rights of Spain’s regions, including minority linguistic rights that had been recognized during the Second Republic.
After Franco’s death in 1975, the nation began transitioning to democracy in the form of a parliamentary monarchy. Part of this transition included the drafting of a new constitution that concurrently recognizes national sovereignty and regional autonomy. Articles 143 and 151 of the 1978 Constitution describe the various procedures regions may use to form autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas). The process of forming an autonomous community involves the drafting and implementation of a Statute of Autonomy (Estatuto de Autonomía) that outlines the community’s administrative structure and competences. The 1978 Constitution itself articulates the permissible powers of each autonomous community, as well as those areas that must remain exclusively under national control.
Spain is divided into seventeen autonomous communities and fifty provinces. There are also two autonomous cities. For a map delineating Spain's administrative boundaries, see the Nations Online Project’s “Administrative Map of Spain.” The country’s first Statutes of Autonomy promulgated within the framework of the 1978 Constitution were those of the Basque Country (País Vasco) and Catalonia (Cataluña) in 1979, followed by those of Galicia and Andalucía in 1981. The Statutes of Autonomy for the remaining autonomous communities—Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, Valencia, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, the Canary Islands, Extremadura, the Balearic Islands, and Castilla-León—were approved between 1982 and 1983. Spain’s enclaves in northern Africa, the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, share a Statute of Autonomy that was promulgated in 1995. Some communities have amended the original statutes, and others have created new statutes that supersede the older versions; an example of the latter is Catalonia’s 2006 Statute of Autonomy.
Spain has not been immune to regional separatist movements since the end of the Franco regime—most notably, those of the Basque Country and Catalonia. The call for an independent Basque nation has been primarily associated with ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna – Basque Homeland and Liberty), which self-admittedly was responsible for more than 800 deaths over a span of four decades. ETA officially announced its disbandment on May 2, 2018. The pro-independence movement in Catalonia, a coalition of political parties and organizations, has garnered international attention for its multiple clashes with the Spanish government in recent years. In October 2017, the national government took the unprecedented step of triggering article 155 of the 1978 Constitution, which empowers it (upon approval of the Senate) to “take all measures necessary” if an autonomous community “acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain.” Accordingly, Spain’s central government dissolved the Catalan parliament and arrested a number of Catalan officials. Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia’s parliament, fled the country and remains in exile in Belgium as of this writing.
Researching the law of Spain’s autonomous communities can be a highly complex undertaking. The Foreign Law Guide’s entry on Spain has this advice for researchers:
“The historical privileges granted the communities require that the researcher in Spanish law be aware of potential divergences likely to occur between the laws that may apply to one of the communities and the national law that applies to the rest of Spain. This will most commonly appear in matters of civil law and personal relationships and may be expected to become regularized in those areas of commercial law where foral exceptions are less pronounced. The laws of the autonomous communities or foral states are (in essence) compiled custom and are based on tradition and history and none can be expanded.”
The legal frameworks of Spain’s autonomous communities are indeed multilayered. In addition to Spanish and communal law, these layers include European Union (EU) norms and international treaties. Thus, when researching and determining the applicable law in the autonomous communities, multiple primary sources must often be consulted.
Also included in Spain’s legal framework is jurisprudence (jurisprudencia), although it is not officially recognized as a source of law; Spain adheres to the civil law tradition that generally rejects the principle of stare decisis. Operating outside of Spain’s national judicial system is the Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional), which sits in Madrid. Part IX of the 1978 Constitution (articles 159–165) describes the composition and jurisdiction of the Court. Article 161.2 specifically states that the Spanish government may appeal to the Constitutional Court when contesting the validity of provisions and resolutions adopted by the autonomous communities. The Court has indeed played a major role in the Catalan independence question and has handed down a number of controversial decisions related to it. The Court’s 2010 decision striking down several sections of Catalonia’s 2006 Statute of Autonomy, for example, ignited massive protests in the region. The Constitutional Court also ruled that Catalonia’s October 2017 vote on independence was illegal.
As such, the goal of this article is to provide a roadmap for researching the multiple layers of what constitutes the law of Spain’s autonomous communities. Note that the GlobaLexarticles on Spanish law (last updated May/June 2014) and EU law (last updated May/June 2016) are also extremely useful for this topic, and they should be utilized in conjunction with this article. When researching the autonomous communities, it should also be noted that the term comunidades autónomas has different English-language translations: e.g., autonomous communities, self-governing communities, autonomous regions, etc.
The following recent publications (2012–2018) provide overviews of Spanish law and/or the law of the Spanish autonomous communities. Both English- and Spanish-language sources are included.
- Agudo Zamora, Manuel J. Manual de Derecho Constitucional. 8th ed. Madrid: Tecnos, 2017.
- Casado, Vanessa. “Update: Guide to Legal Research in Spain.” May/June 2014. GlobaLex.
- Ferreres Comella, Víctor. Constitution of Spain: A Contextual Analysis. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2013.
- Gambino, Silvio et al. The Spanish Constitutional System. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, 2018.
- Gillespie, Richard, and Caroline Gray, eds. Contesting Spain?: The Dynamics of Nationalist Movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country. London: Routledge, 2015.
- Laforest, Guy, and André Lecours, eds. The Parliaments of Autonomous Nations. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016.
- López Guerra, Luís. Derecho Constitucional. 2 vols. 10th ed. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch, 2016.
- Ruiz Robledo, Agustín. Constitutional Law in Spain. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2012.
- Sub-National Constitutional Law in Spain. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2018.
- Urrastabaso Ruiz, Unai. Modern Societies and National Identities: Legal Praxis and the Basque-Spanish Conflict. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
- 42 International Journal of Legal Information, no. 1 (Spring 2014) (entire issue is devoted to Catalonia).
The research guides listed below may serve as pathfinders for researching Spanish law and the legal frameworks of the Spanish autonomous communities, along with related topics. Note that the Foreign Law Guide,* has a useful overview of the complex relationship between the autonomous communities and the national legal system; see, specifically, the section on “Legislation and the Judicial System” within the main entry for Spain.
- Catalan Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library
- Guide to Law Online: Spain, Law Library of Congress
- Guía de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo, Library of Law and Labor Sciences, Universidad de Sevilla
- Guía Temática de Derecho, Library of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
- Política Autonómica, Ministerio de Política Territorial y Función Pública, Gobierno de España
- Researching the Law of the Spanish Autonomous Communities, Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library
- Spain, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library (London)
- Spanish Law, Bodleian Law Library (University of Oxford)
Article 1.1 of the Spanish Civil Code specifies that the sources of Spanish law are legislation, custom, and general principles. Article 1.2 further stipulates that norms of a lower rank cannot override those above. Articles 1.3 and 1.4 of the Code indicate that legislation ranks first, followed by custom, and general principles. The 1978 Constitution guarantees the hierarchical structure of legal provisions (art. 9.3) and further describes the ranking of Spanish legislation, including the constitution itself (art. 9.1); international treaties (arts. 93 and 96); organic acts (art. 81); decree-laws (art. 86); legislative decrees (art. 82); and various administrative regulations and rules (arts. 97 and 106).
The GlobaLex article on Spanish law untangles the nomenclature of these legal instruments and also indicates where each sits in the legal hierarchy. In terms of the connection between national and community legislation, there is a somewhat tenuous distribution of powers, as described in the GlobaLex article: “The relationship between the central and the autonomous communities’ laws is based on the principle of allocation of powers, that is, central government’s rules will prevail if this level ha[s] power over the matter regulated.” For additional information on the delicate interplay between domestic and community legislation, see Chapter 7 on regional decentralization in Ferreres Comella’s 2013 book (listed under 3. Introductory Materials).
Below are descriptions of the various types of legal instruments in the Spanish legal system, with explanations on how to identify and research each.
The Spanish Constitution of 1978 sits at the top of Spain’s legal hierarchy. Its text is available in Spanish and in English-language translation on a number of websites and web platforms. In addition to those listed below, the Spanish Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) website offers versions of the 1978 Constitution in various languages, including Catalan, Basque, Galician, Valencian, and English.
- Constituciones Hispanoamericanas: Constituciones de España: Hosted on the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes site, this source provides access to the current and historical texts of the Spanish Constitution, as well as several draft constitutions. Several English-language translations are included.
- Constitute: Spain: Developed and directed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, this is an online compendium of the world’s constitutions in English-language translation. The site allows for the cross-comparison of constitutional passages.
- Oxford Constitutions of the World*: This is Oxford University Press’s collection of national constitutions in English-language translation, complemented by secondary materials.
- World Constitutions Illustrated*: Available via HeinOnline, WCI provides access to historical and current texts of foreign constitutions in their original language. The entry for Spain includes an English-language translation of the 1978 Constitution, consolidated through 2011 legislation. Full texts of relevant monographs, journal articles, and other materials are likewise included, many in English.
The bicameral Spanish Parliament (Cortes Generales), comprising the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) and the Senate (Senado), sits in Madrid. Some of the content of the Parliament’s website is available in English. For an overview of the types of norms emanating from the Parliament (and the executive branch), along with their procedural aspects, see the current GlobaLex article on Spanish Law (section 3.2. National Legislation). Article 87.2 of the 1978 Constitution specifies how the autonomous community governments may introduce bills for consideration at the national level.
The Congress of Deputies site has a search platform for parliamentary initiatives that allows limiting by various parameters, such as keyword, legislature number, and type of initiative. The latter includes laws proposed by autonomous communities and cities (proposición de ley de Comunidades y Cuidades Autónomas) and constitutional reforms proposed by autonomous communities (proposición de reforma constitucional de Comunidades Autónomas). The platform will also limit results to proposed agreements between autonomous communities (convenios entre Comunidades Autónomas) and proposed reforms of Statutes of Autonomy (propuesta de reforma de Estatuto Autonomía).
The Senate has a General Commission on the Autonomous Communities (Comisión General de las Comunidades Autónomas), currently consisting of fifty-four members. The Commission’s responsibilities are described in sections 55 and 56 of the Regulation of the Senate (Reglamento del Senado). These include, among others, drafting and evaluating proposals relevant to the competences and interests of the autonomous communities. There is also a Joint Commission for the European Union (Comisión Mixta para la Unión Europea), composed of selected Deputies and Senators, which reviews EU legislative proposals and their possible impact on the autonomous communities.
Spain’s official government gazette, the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE), is posted on the Spanish government’s website (back to September 1960). Supplements are available in Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Valencian. The national codes of Spain are also available here; the currency of each code is clearly indicated.
A number of IGOs and NGOs have created subject-specific databases for national legislation, including that of Spain. Examples are: NATLEX (labor laws, International Labour Organization); WIPO Lex (intellectual property laws, World Intellectual Property Organization); Investment Laws (foreign investment laws, UNCTAD); and ECOLEX (environmental laws, jointly administered by IUCN, UNEP, and FAO). The World Bank’s Doing Business platform provides access to domestic commercial laws in the “Law Library” section of the site.
English-language translations of Spanish legal materials are relatively scarce and locating them can often be challenging. Note that the Lawrence Publishing Company (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) has published an English-language translation of the Spanish Civil Code, consolidated through October 6, 2015. The Spanish government offers selected pieces of legislation and the Civil Code in English-language translation, although some documents require a fee to access.
The following Web resources will also help locate Spanish legislation.
- Global-Regulation*: This resource enables searching across the laws of ninety jurisdictions, including Spain. Laws are machine translated into English, but links are provided to the official texts. The database is updated monthly.
- vLex*: vLex’s publisher, based in Barcelona, describes the database as “one of the largest collections of legal information in the world.” The product is particularly strong for European and Latin American content, which includes legislation, jurisprudence, and secondary sources.
- World Legal Information Institute: Spain: Several non-profit regional legal information initiatives created and maintain World LII. The massive database offers subject-based links, including to legislation, for individual nations.
The communities’ Statutes of Autonomy serve as institutional norms per article 147.1 of the 1978 Constitution. The Statutes must be approved by the Cortes and thus constitute part of Spain’s domestic legal infrastructure, although they are subordinate to the Constitution. The texts of each of the Statutes of Autonomy are linked from the Spanish government’s website; the government has also posted a collection of the Statutes in PDF format (current through May 2018, as of this writing). The only identified English-language translation of a community Statute of Autonomy (in electronic format) is that of Catalonia. Links to the autonomous communities’ government websites are posted in various places, including the GlobaLex article on Spanish law (see section 2.2. Autonomous Communities). Only three of these local government sites have any English-language content:
Each community legislative assembly, or parliament, publishes an official gazette. None of these are published in English, although all are available in Spanish, and many in the minority language of the communities, such as Catalan, Basque, and Galician. The Spanish government has posted a list of links to these gazettes. The Spanish government also offers a searchable database of legislation at the national, autonomous community, and EU levels. For the laws of the autonomous communities, choose “autonómico” before initiating a search. Various codifications of autonomous community laws are available as PDFs on the BOE site; these include a compilation of the communities’ civil foral laws (Leyes Civiles Forales).
The Spanish government publishes the monthly Autonomous Regions Standard Bulletin (Boletín de Normativa de las Comunidades Autónomas) in Spanish only. Issues of the Bulletin of Parliamentary Activity of the Autonomous Communities (Boletín de Actividad Parlamentaria de las Comunidades Autónomas), starting with October 2016, are also posted on the Spanish government’s site, again in Spanish only.
Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986 and signed the subsequent EU treaties–the Maastricht Treaty (1992); the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997); the Treaty of Nice (2001); and the Lisbon Treaty (2007). Spain’s relationship with the EU is governed domestically by article 93 of the 1978 Constitution, which allows the transfer of certain constitutional powers to an international or supranational organization.
EU regulations apply to all member states, and EU directives must be implemented through domestic legislation. EUR-Lex, the EU’s free database of laws, offers a specialized search mechanism for national implementing measures. To identify Spain’s domestic implementation of EU directives, choose “National transposition” for “Collection” and then “Spain” in the pull-down menu for “member states.” Other methods of identifying national implementing measures are described in the GlobaLex article on EU research. The Spanish government created the Conference for Matters Related to the European Union (Conferencia para Asuntos Relacionados con la Unión Europea) (CARUE), which encourages cooperation between the national government and the autonomous communities regarding decisions made at the EU level.
The European Court of Justice’s jurisprudence has established a supremacy principle in the instance of conflict between national and EU legislation; that is, EU law prevails. Spain’s Constitutional Court clarified this principle as it relates to Spanish law in its Declaration 1/2004 of December 13, 2004. For a recent discussion of the complex interplay between EU and Spanish law, as well as the Spanish Constitutional Court’s views on the matter, see Marcio García’s June 2017 blog post, “Cautious Openness: The Spanish Constitutional Court’s Approach to EU Law in Recent National Case Law.”
Bilateral and multinational treaties and agreements form part of the corpus of Spanish domestic law per article 96 of the 1978 Constitution. Per article 1.5 of the Civil Code, international treaties are not applicable until they have been published in the BOE. Some of the Statutes of Autonomy describe the autonomous communities’ roles in various stages of international treaty drafting and negotiating. For more on the autonomous communities’ participation in international affairs, see section 9 below.
To locate the texts of treaties and agreements, see the website of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. Other Web-based collections may be searched, such as the United Nations Treaty Collection and UNCTAD’s International Investment Agreements Navigator. See also the “Treaties” tab in the Bodleian Library’s electronic research guide on Spanish law.
As aforementioned, Spain follows the civil law tradition, which generally rejects the concept of stare decisis. The Spanish judicial system itself is unitary; all judicial power emanates from the Spanish State. The system’s structure reflects Spain’s administrative boundaries. Each autonomous community has high courts (tribunales superiores de justicia), and each province has provincial courts (audiencias provinciales). At the apex of this system is the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo), sitting in Madrid. The National Court (Audiencia Nacional), also in Madrid, hears appeals in administrative, labor, and social matters, as well as economic crimes; its decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court. There are also numerous courts (juzgados) that are specialized in terms of subject matter jurisdiction.
The Spanish Judicial Power (Poder Judicial España) website contains some material in English. The site includes information on the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) that oversees the Spanish judicial system. Links to the websites of the high courts of each autonomous community are also posted on this site.
With regard to Spain’s Supreme Court, article 1.6 of the Spanish Civil Code specifies that “the jurisprudence of the courts shall serve as complement to the legal order with the doctrine that, in a constant manner, may be established by the Supreme Court, in its interpretation of legislation, customs, and the general principles of law.” The Foreign Law Guide* notes that “it is safe to suggest that Spanish legal practice accords more authority to the ‘jurisprudence’ of the Tribunal Supremo than one would give decisions of comparable courts in France or Italy.” Although some decisions of the Supreme Court are translated into English, the opinions of lower courts are generally not. There is a free public search platform on the Poder Judicial site for locating judicial decisions across much of Spain’s court system.
The competences of the Constitutional Court (Corte Constitucional), which functions outside of the Spanish judicial system, are set forth in article 161 of the 1978 Constitution. These include conflicts of jurisdiction between the national government and the autonomous communities and amongst the autonomous communities themselves. The Court’s website has some materials available in English, although the Spanish-language website is more populated. As mentioned previously, the Constitutional Court has played a major role in deciding disputes pertaining to the bid for Catalan independence.
For additional information on the Spanish judicial system, see chapter 5 in Part II of Robledo’s Constitutional Law in Spain (listed in section 3 above) and the entry for Spain in the Foreign Law Guide*. For information on print reporters, see the Foreign Law Guide*. As Spain is a member of the EU, Spain’s highest courts will refer cases to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for clarifications of EU law. The Court’s CURIA database allows searching for case information by country (see “Source of a question referred for a preliminary ruling”).
7. Secondary Sources
When researching the law of any foreign jurisdiction or region, it is often advantageous to start with a secondary source. Some secondary sources treat Spanish law generally, while others lead to information on the individual autonomous communities.
The following English-language encyclopedias are subscription based and include Spain in their scope. Note that there are a number of legal encyclopedias published in Spain that may be useful for Spanish-speaking researchers.
- International Encyclopaedia of Laws*: Available on the Kluwer Law Online platform, as well as in loose-leaf format, this collection is divided by topic, and then by country as “national monographs.” Some of the included topics are cyber law, environmental law, intellectual property law, media law, and tort law.
- Kritzer, Herbert M., ed. Legal Systems of the World: A Political, Social, and Cultural Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2002. The section on Spain provides a detailed legal history that emphasizes regional diversity.
- Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law*: Launched in early 2017, and available via Oxford University Press, this online encyclopedia contains scholarly articles in the context of comparative constitutional law. Spain-related contributions include Xabier Arzoz’s piece on the “Constitutional Court of Spain (Tribunal Constitucional de España)” and John Hopkins’s entry on “Devolution.”
- Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law*: Also available through Oxford University Press, this is one of the most authoritative reference sources in the field of public international law. Examples of relevant Spain-related content are “Autonomy” (Markku Suksi) and “Ceuta and Melilla” (Daniel-Erasmus Khan).
- Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History*: The entry on Spain addresses the legal history of the various regions. The set is edited by Stanley N. Katz and is available in print and electronically.
Searching on the following Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in online library catalogs will yield books related to the general topic of Spanish law, as well as the law of the autonomous communities. To locate books on individual communities, pair the name of the community with “--Politics and Government.” Note that there is a rich collection of electronic books (Spanish only) on history, law, and government available through the online portal, Judicial Library (Biblioteca Jurídica).
- Basques--Politics and Government
- Catalonia (Spain)--Politics and Government
- Constitutional History--Spain
- Constitutional Law--Spain
- Federal Government--Spain
- Spain--Politics and Government
A list of free, online law journals published in Spain is posted on the delaJusticia.com website; all of the publications on this list are in Spanish.
Interdisciplinary and subject-specific academic journals that focus on Spain and the Iberian Peninsula may also be useful for researching regional Spanish law. These types of publications are often available in subscription databases, such as JSTOR*. Note that the U.S.-based Basque Database, which provides free access, includes political topics in its scope.
Open-access scholarship initiatives that have Spanish content include Latindex, which collects bibliographic information for Latin American and Iberian serials. SciELO is a publishing platform for scholarly publications, primarily in the sciences (but with some legal content). RedALyC is another indexing and publishing platform for Latin American and Iberian academic output. Dialnet is an open-access scholarship repository based in Spain. Finally, Elsevier’s SSRN is an excellent resource for locating open-access working drafts and published pieces on foreign legal topics.
The following online journal databases and indexes will also help identify and locate relevant articles.
- HeinOnline Law Journal Library*: The HeinOnline Law Journal Library contains scanned images of U.S. and some foreign law reviews, generally back to their inception. An index of journal titles is available by subject and country of publication.
- Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals*: IFLP, available electronically through HeinOnline, indexes foreign (including some non-English language) law journals. Journal titles are listed by region and country. IFLP is produced by the American Association of Law Libraries.
Often overlooked by legal researchers, theses and dissertations contain exhaustive research and extensive bibliographies and may serve as useful sources of information on the law of the Spanish autonomous communities. Along with the Web platforms listed below, many universities post digital copies of their own students’ theses and dissertations.
- DART-Europe E-theses Portal: This open-access portal is a partnership of various European research libraries and library consortia. It provides access to theses from over 600 European universities, including many in Spain. The database is multilingual.
- Open Access Theses and Dissertations: This is an online collection of open-access theses and dissertations from around the globe. Over 1,000 education and research institutions are represented, including a number from Spain.
- ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global*: According to the database description, “PQDT Global offers comprehensive historic and ongoing coverage for North American works and significant and growing international coverage from a multiyear program of expanding partnerships with international universities and national associations.” Academic institutions in eighty-eight countries are currently represented.
- Tesis Doctorals en Xarxa (TDX): TDX is a cooperative digital repository for doctoral theses submitted at various Spanish universities, primarily in Catalonia. The government of Catalonia sponsors the database, and a consortium of universities in Catalonia (CSUC) manages it. Currently, there are over 30,000 theses available in full text.
Newspaper and news websites, as well as blogs, can be excellent sources for information on legal developments in Spain. The crisis in Catalonia, for example, has been covered locally, nationally, and internationally. El País publishes editions in several languages other than Spanish, including Catalan and English. The Spanish-language version has a separate section on the autonomous communities, and news may be limited by community. The English-language edition has a separate site for news from Catalonia. The onlinenewspapers.com website has a comprehensive list of Spanish newspapers, including regional dailies.
Some English-language newspapers, including Great Britain’s The Guardian, cover events in Spain extensively. There are a limited number of English-language newspapers published in Spain; these include The Local and Catalan News. Euronews, headquartered in France, provides European news in English on its website.
The following is a short list of selected news sources and blogs that cover Spanish law and politics in English. Note that a comprehensive collection of links for legal-related blogs is available on JUSTIA’s BlawgSearch; the lists there are organized by practice area, geographic focus, and by law school sponsorship. For a useful Spanish-language blog, see José Ramón Chavez García’s delaJusticia.com, which notably offers an annual list of the most popular law blogs in Spain.
- European Law Blog: Authored by various academics and practitioners, the posts on this blog focus on developments in EU law and practice, including case opinions of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
- EUROPP: This blog, supported by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s European Institute, follows events in Europe. According to the site, its “central aim is to increase the public understanding of European politics and policy by providing accessible academic commentary and research.”
- Global Legal Monitor: Compiled by personnel at the Law Library of Congress, the Monitor provides regular e-mail updates on legal developments around the world. The archives may be searched by country. See also the LLOC’s blog, In Custodia Legis, for occasional posts on Spanish legal topics.
Discussions and reports on human rights in Spain usually appear in the context of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), the Catalan independence question, and the treatment of migrants. See the following list of resources recommended for researching human rights in Spain. Also note that Spain has been the defendant in a number of cases at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. To identify these cases, see the Court’s HUDOC database and search using “Spain” as a “State” filter.
- Amnesty International: Spain: Based in London, Amnesty International is an NGO that focuses on improving human rights worldwide.
- Columbia International Affairs Online*: CIAO is an international affairs database that includes the full texts of books, policy briefs, conference papers, journal articles, and other secondary materials. It is available via Columbia University Press.
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Spain 2017: The U.S. Department of State publishes annual human rights reports on U.N. member states and countries that receive financial assistance from the United States.
- Equipo Nizkor: This international NGO investigates human rights abuses and fights against impunity; its geographic emphasis is the Americas and Europe. According to its website, Equipo Nizkor “manages the world’s biggest online human rights documentation centre in Spanish.” The website itself has versions in Spanish, English, and French. Search on “Catalonia” for materials related to the Catalan independence movement.
- Human Rights Watch: Spain: An NGO headquartered in New York City, Human Rights Watch investigates human rights conditions in about ninety countries.
- RefWorld: Spain: This is a comprehensive online database, maintained and supported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which focuses on human rights in the context of asylum and refugee law. Documents published by various NGOs, such as Freedom House and Minority Rights Group International, are included in the database.
- Universal Human Rights Index: The Index, hosted on the site of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), provides access to country-specific recommendations issued by various U.N. bodies.
Although the autonomous communities are not independent nations, many are active at a global level, and their governments’ actions may have international implications. The English-language Spanish Yearbook of International Law provides annual overviews of legal developments in Spain within the context of public and private international law. Some past volumes have included discussions regarding the relationship between Spanish community legislation and international law. The Yearbook is available freely on the WWW (1991–2016) and in HeinOnline’s Foreign & International Law Resources Database* (1991–2017).
Spain is a member of the EU, and as such, EU law applies to all of Spain’s territory. In the context of the Catalan separatist movement, EU officials and European leaders have declined to mediate and have treated the Catalan crisis as a domestic issue. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has stated that a legally constituted independent Catalonia would have to apply separately for EU membership.
The EU itself has a European Committee of the Regions, which is a political assembly with 350 members. Spain has twenty-one members on the committee–seventeen represent Spain’s autonomous communities. Some communities have their own direct representation in EU countries to promote their interests. For an overview of the relationship between the Spanish autonomous communities and the EU, see Agustín Ruiz Robledo, "Spanish Autonomous Communities and EU Policies," 5.2 Perspectives on Federalism (2013).
Spain has been involved in a number of disputes submitted to international tribunals, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ). ICJ judgments are posted on the Court’s website. The following resources also contain decisions of international courts and tribunals.
- International Law Reports*: Published by Cambridge University Press, ILR is “devoted to the regular and systematic reporting in English” of international and national court opinions. Four volumes are published annually, and the set has consolidated indexes. ILR is available in print and online.
- International Legal Materials*: Published by the American Society of International Law six times annually, ILM reprints selected legislation, international agreements, and judicial decisions. ILM is available via a number of commercial online platforms, including Westlaw*.
- Oxford Reports on International Law*: This comprehensive database, available through Oxford University Press, provides access to international jurisprudence in five modules: International Law in Domestic Courts; International Criminal Law; International Human Rights Law; International Courts of General Jurisdiction; and International Investment Claims.
The following resources are useful for conducting historical research on Spanish law, as well as identifying more contemporary sources. Several of the listed sites are well-known digital repositories with multiple contributing institutions.
- HathiTrust Digital Library*: HathiTrust is a partnership of over 100 research institutions and libraries. Many of the works contained in this multidisciplinary and multinational database are in the public domain. Only partner institutions, however, are permitted to access some areas of the platform. The database can be particularly useful for historical research on Spanish law. Some items are in English.
- LLMC Digital*: LLMC (Law Library Microfilm Consortium) Digital is a repository for at-risk global legal and government materials. The database includes historical primary and secondary sources from Spain. Included are the laws in force in the Spanish cities in Morocco in 1920.
- Making of Modern Law: Foreign Primary Sources, Part II*: Part of Gale’s multi-database collection of historical legal materials, this digital archive includes codes and code-related commentaries from around the globe, including Spain. Coverage is 1600–1970.
There are over eighty bar associations (colegios) in Spain; their information (including website urls) are linked from a map posted on the Abogacía Español website. The HG.org website also has a list of Spanish bar associations with links and contact information. Additionally, there is an Ibero-American Union of Bar Associations and Lawyer Groups (Unión Iberoamericana de Colegios y Agrupaciones de Abogados), headquartered in Madrid.
The following U.S. law libraries have significant foreign law collections, many that include current and historical materials from and about Spain. Also noteworthy is the Jon Bilbao Basque Library, located at the University of Nevada, Reno, which describes itself as the “leading library on Basque subjects throughout the world outside of the Basque Country.” Libraries of U.S. branches of the Instituto Cervantes may also have useful materials related to Spanish law and the autonomous communities.
- Harvard Law School Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
- LA Law Library (Los Angeles, California)
- Law Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.)
- Lillian Goldman Law Library (Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut)
 See Augustin Ruiz Robledo, Constitutional law in Spain 21 (2012).
 Thomas D. Lancaster, Spain, in 4 Legal Systems of the World: A Political, Social, and Cultural Encyclopedia 1513, 1513–14 (Herbert M. Kritzer ed., 2002). For an overview of the early sources of Spanish regional law, see John Thomas Vance, The Background of Hispanic-American Law: Legal Sources and Juridical Literature of Spain 202–30 (1942).
 Const. Cadiz art. 258 (1812); English translation at Biblioteca Virtual, Miguel de Cervantes. See also Augustín Parise, The Place of the Louisiana Civil Code in the Hispanic Civil Codifications: The Comments to the Spanish Civil Code Project of 1851, 68 La. L. Rev. 823, 836–7 (2008).
 Lancaster, supra note 2, at 1515.
 Const. (1931) art 11. English translation available in Hein’s World Constitutions Illustrated.
 Const. (1931) art 4.
 Noémi Nagi, Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights in Spain, 150 Studia Juridica Auctoritate Universitatis Pėcs Publicata, 183, 186 (2012).
 Const. (1978) arts. 147.1 & 147.2.
 Const. (1978) arts. 148 & 149.
 Sam Jones, “‘We are truly sorry’: Eta apologises for four decades of deadly violence,” The Guardian (April 20, 2018).
 Marci Hoffman Ed., "Spain: Legislation and the Judicial System,” Foreign Law Guide, BrillOnline Reference Works, 2017 (country section updated Sept. 20, 2012).
 See Krishnadev Calamur, “The Spanish Court Decision That Sparked the Modern Catalan Independence Movement,” The Atlantic (Oct. 1, 2017).
 See Victor Ferreres Comellia, The Constitution of Spain: A Contextual Analysis 169–72 (2012).
 See, e.g., Case 6/64, Costa v. ENEL, 1964 E.C.R. 585. For an overview of the EU supremacy principle, see the chapter “Supremacy of EU Law” (pp. 271–302) in Alina Kaczorowska-Ireland, European Union Law (4th ed. 2016).
 Robledo, supra note 1, at 59–60.
 Hoffman, supra note 13.
 Romanach, Julio, Jr., trans. Civil Code of Spain Translated into English with an Introduction and Index art. 1.6 (3d ed. 2015).
 Hoffman, supra note 13.
 Everton Gayle, “Juncker: An independent Catalonia would have to apply to join EU,” Euronews (Sept. 14, 2017),