Organisational structure of the Judiciary

Under the Constitution of 1978, Spain is a country under the rule of law, and accordingly the Spanish judicial system has undergone major changes over the past 30 years.

This text has two aims: to show how justice is structured in Spain and to describe the actions taking place to modernise the justice system. To that end, the preliminary sections describe the structure of the judiciary, the role of the prosecution and the legal professions. This is followed by initiatives aimed at modernising the system.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 establishes that jus­tice emanates from the people and is administered in the name of the King by magistrates and judges of the judicial branch of government - they are independent, permanent, responsible for their actions and subject only to the rule of law. The Constitution establishes the principle of jurisdictional unity as the cornerstone of the organisational structure and functioning of the court system.

The framework statute on the organisational structure of the judiciary is Constitutional Law 6/1985 on the Judiciary, which, among other matters, governs the scope and limits of jurisdiction, territorial organisation, composition and powers of judicial bod­ies, the governing bodies of the judiciary, judicial ca­reers, independence and responsibility, rules on the organisational structure and functioning of the Jus­tice Administration, and the office of the Public Prose­cutor.

Sede del Consejo General del Poder Judicial (Poderjudicial.es)The governing body of the judiciary is the General Council of the Judiciary, chaired by the presiding justice of the Su­preme Court, and comprising a further 20 members appointed for a five-year term. Of these members, 12 must be magistrates or judges drawn from all judicial categories while the re­mainder are appointed from among jurists of high repute.

Major improvements were made to the regulation of the governing body of the judiciary under Constitutional Law 4/2013, of 28 June reforming the General Council of the Judiciary. The reform provides that members - except for those on the Standing Committee - may hold office while combining this with their professional activity. It also modifies the mechanism for electing members. Thus, any judge may be elected as a mem­ber of the General Council of the Judiciary conditional only upon the support of 25 members of the judiciary on active duty or of a le­gal association. Each judge or association may in turn endorse a maximum of 12 candidates. The reform provides for a council renewal system ensur­ing that the deadlines set out in law are met in a time­ly manner.

The law also establishes that although the governing body of the judiciary shall maintain budgetary independence, the first budget will be zero-based, so all of the needs of the institution must be justified before it can be drafted. This strategy is intended to contribute to the good gov­ernance and economic efficiency of the institution.

It also introduces streamlining measures affecting the organisational structure of the General Council of the Judiciary and various provisions for increasing the flexibility and efficiency of its functioning, all with a view to affirming the independence of the highest gov­erning body of the Judiciary.

At present, for judicial purposes, the country is organ­ised territorially into municipalities, circuits (partidos), provinces and autonomous regions.

The nature of the action determines each of the or­ders into which the judicial function is structured. The ordinary jurisdiction is divided into four jurisdictional orders:

  • Civil: this order examines matters relating to private law, with the exception of those pertaining to employment law and, in particular, matters governed by Civil and Com­mercial Law (obligations, property, trading companies, parentage, marriage, etc.). It also tries litigation cas­es not expressly assigned to another jurisdictional order. This order also hears cases relating to proper­ty located in Spanish territory or entities registered in Spain, or when the defendant is resident in Spanish territory. It may accordingly be regarded as the ordi­nary or general jurisdictional order.
  • Criminal: the criminal jurisdictional order is compe­tent to hear criminal actions and cases, ex­cept those within the scope of the jurisdiction of the military order (court martials). It is a feature of Spanish law that a civil action arising from facts constituting an offence may be brought in conjunction with the criminal ac­tion. When this occurs, it is the criminal court that awards civil damages in respect of the serious or minor of­fence.
  • Judicial review: this jurisdictional order is concerned with the review of actions of the executive branch of gov­ernment subject to administrative law, claims for State liability, and review of the use of delegated regulatory powers.
  • Employment: this order hears claims brought within the employment branch of law: individual disputes between work­ers and employers in respect of employment con­tracts, class employment disputes, claims regarding Social Security issues, and claims against the State wherever employment legislation establishes State lia­bility.

Each jurisdictional order contains organs specialising in specific fields. The civil order, for instance, compris­es courts of first instance, commercial courts, and fam­ily law courts; the criminal order comprises examining courts, criminal courts, gender-based violence courts, prison supervision courts and juvenile courts.

Military jurisdiction falls outside the or­dinary jurisdiction, and prosecutes offences under the Military Criminal Code and in cases of a state of siege, thereby constituting an exception to the principle of ju­risdictional unity.

The judicial bodies in Spain are:

  • The Supreme Court with jurisdiction throughout Spain, is the supreme court in all jurisdictional or­ders, except as regards constitutional safeguards, which fall within the purview of the Constitutional Court.
  • The National High Court with ju­risdiction throughout Spain, is a specialised court that hears certain cases assigned to it by law. In matters of criminal law, for instance, the National High Court is competent to determine cases concerning offences against the crown or members of govern­ment, organised crime offences, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, or counterfeiting, and offences com­mitted outside Spain wherever Spanish law or inter­national treaties provide that jurisdiction falls to the Spanish courts.
  • The High Courts of Justice of the autonomous regions with jurisdiction within the territorial scope of the respective de­volved regions. Each regional High Court is struc­tured into four divisions: civil, criminal, judicial re­view and employment.
  • Each Provincial Court has its seat in the capital of the province within its jurisdic­tion. Provincial Courts are concerned with civil and criminal matters, and their respective benches may have the same composition.
  • Courts of first instance, examining courts, commer­cial courts, gender violence courts, criminal courts, judicial review courts, employment courts, juvenile courts and prison supervision courts comprise a single judge who hears cases assigned to his or her juris­diction by law.
  • Justices of the Peace Courts (magistrate's courts) operate in municipalities having no court of first instance or examining court.

The Public Prosecutor's Office is a functionally independent body within the judiciary. It carries out its duties by means of its own bodies in accordance with the principles of unity of action and hierarchical subordination, and the principles of legali­ty and impartiality.

The objects of this institution are to assist the enforce­ment of justice in defence of legality, the rights of citizens and the public interest protected by the law, whether on its own motion or at the behest of interested parties, and to safeguard the independence of the courts and defend the public interest in court proceedings.

The State's Attorney General, appointed by the King at the behest of the government and supported by the Gen­eral Council of the Judiciary, is the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office and represents that office throughout Spain. The State's Attorney General has powers to issue orders and instructions and is in charge of the general man­agement and supervision of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Main legal professions

Judges, public prosecutors and court clerks

The Constitutional Law on the Judiciary establishes that jurisdictional functions may only be exercised by professional judg­es and magistrates, who make up the judicial profes­sion.

Entry to the judicial profession is based on the princi­ples of merit and ability. Judicial appointments, the se­lective process of which is conducted in conjunction with appointments to the profession of public prosecutor, are subject to passing a public examination and a theoretical and practical selection course. Candidates must hold a law degree or equivalent qualification.

Presentación del informe El Secretario Judicial en cifras (Ministerio de Justicia)When in active service, judges, magistrates and public prosecutors may not hold any other public office, nor may they be members of any political party or trade union; they are subject to a statutory regime of con­flicts of interest designed to ensure that they are en­tirely independent.

Court clerks, whose duty it is to exercise judicial au­thentication, are civil servants; they constitute a legally-trained senior corps of the civil service within the Jus­tice Administration, which is dependent upon the Ministry of Justice. As a rule, court clerks are selected through the public examination system. Candidates must hold a law degree or equivalent qualification. They perform a key role, inter alia, in facilitating proceedings and man­aging court administration.

Lawyers and court attorneys

The profession of lawyer is open and in­dependent. Lawyers are not subject to any govern­ment authority, and practise their profession on the basis of open competition. They are involved in man­aging and defending citizens' interests in all manner of court proceedings, legal advice, and representation of their clients, unless reserved by law to other legal pro­fessions. All lawyers are under a duty to register as members of a bar association.

Court attorneys represent the rights and interests of the parties before the courts of justice under a power of attorney granted for said purpose, and receive all notifications in relation to their clients. By virtue of their status as co-operators in the administration of justice, they have taken on a greater role in the work of management and procedural tasks in legal proceedings. All court attorneys are likewise under a duty to register as members of a professional body.

Entry to the profession of lawyer or court attorney is subject to holding a university degree in law, or equivalent qualification, proof of professional com­petence, accredited by passing the relevant specialised training prescribed by law, and passing an exami­nation under the terms determined by the Ministry of Justice.

Lawyers are paid fees according to services rendered, on a fixed or periodic basis, or billing by the hour. Fees may be freely agreed between client and lawyer, within the bounds of the relevant code of conduct.

Court attorneys are members of the College of Court Attorneys, the governing board of which ensures that they perform their duties effec­tively and adequately.

Notaries and registrars

Notaries and registrars are public officials who are di­rectly accountable to the Ministry of Justice; however, they are also members of professional bodies. The notary's role is to authenticate pri­vate legal documents, assisting in the correct drafting of the same and attesting as to the manner and form in which such documents are expressed.

The role of the registrar is to assess or verify the legality of documents presented for entry in the public registers of land and companies, which respectively record rights regarding real estate and companies, as well as other documents and deeds.

Entry to the legal professions of notary and registrar is subject to holding a law degree or equivalent qualification, and to passing a public ex­amination. Members of both professions are remuner­ated in the form of fees paid directly by the client re­quiring their services, under a system of duties approved by the State.

Key reforms undertaken by the ministry of Justice

New Judicial and Public Prosecution Office

The Ministry of Justice continues to push on with the project to modernise the Justice Administration, aimed primarily at providing citizens with a quality jus­tice system.

One of the main drivers of this change is the New Judicial Office, which requires considerable organisational restructuring within the Justice Administration and is defined as an instrumen­tal organisation to support judicial activity and establishes streamlined and homogeneous working systems to ensure that court activity is carried out with the utmost speed, efficiency and responsibility.

Registro Civil Central (Ministerio de Justicia)The New Judicial Office (NOJ) is organised into direct procedural support units and common procedural services. The for­mer are assigned the legal proceedings and manage­ment of all matters attributed by law to judges and courts. The common procedural services carry out centralised management and support tasks in actions arising from the application of procedural law.

This is achieved in two ways: by releasing judges from the requirement of performing non-judicial tasks, thus enabling them to focus on their constitutionally-as­cribed role of arriving at judicial decisions and having them enforced, and by strengthening the powers of court clerks, who take on new responsibilities.

Since 2010, the Ministry of Justice has been progres­sively implementing this new organisational model within the scope of its powers. Judicial Offices have now been opened in various cities (Burgos, Mur­cia-phase I, Leon, Ciudad Real, Caceres, Merida, Cuenca, Ceuta and Melilla) where they are operating with normality.

In the first half of 2015, the start up of phase II of Murcia and the Judicial Office in Ponferrada took place (on the 25th of March and the 24th of June, respectively)

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice is working with the State's Attorney General's Office on a new model of the Public Prosecutor's Of­fice that meets the most pressing needs of this office to ensure significant improve­ments in effectiveness, efficiency and response. More­over, this new model will allow the Public Prosecutor's Office to take on the new duties assigned to it under the new Criminal Procedure Act.

The Public Prosecutor's New Office establishes the basic criteria to be followed by public prosecutors for the organisation of support staff, breaking away from the current model in which each prosecutor is inde­pendent in terms of the organisation and distribution of their workload among its members.

The law will create a hierarchical structure through the figure of the Prosecution Office Coordinator, who will oversee and monitor activity and provide the required support for the organisation and management of prosecution resources.

The Ministry of Justice is already implementing the necessary actions to set in motion the new organisational model, having opened the first one in Ceuta on 4 February 2015, in Melilla on 12 March, Cuenca 3 June, Caceres 1 July and Murca 28 September.

Court buildings

In order to provide the necessary spaces for the per­formance of judicial functions, the Ministry of Justice is constructing new buildings and improving and modernising existing ones, while equipping all facilities with ap­propriate equipment, except in the autonomous regions that have assumed the competences of fitting-out their own resources for running their regional Justice Administration.

Juzgados de Plasencia (Ministerio de Justicia)Similarly, in 2015 refurbishment works have been carried out on the National High Court and the complementary works located beneath the Plaza de la Villa de París, on its western half, to be used as Visiting Rooms, connected to the main building via an access tunnel. Security works and installations on the whole complex have also also been implemented.

Work on the courthouse in Palencia and of the court buildings in Guadalajara y Badajoz began in 2015. The refurbishment works were also put out to tender for the court buildings in Trujillo and Soria, as well as the reconditioning of the former Bank of Spain building to house the new judicial headquarters in Ceuta. Also noteworthy is the tendering of major building works on the new judicial headquarters in Albacete, Segovia and Ibiza, as well as the work on the courthouse in Lorca.

New technologies

Spain's Justice Administration is increasingly supported by new technologies for the day-to-day man­agement of judicial activities and as a way to help re­solve specific problems requiring the use of technologies. Recently-adopted measures in this field include:

Noteworthy among all these measures are mandatory electronic notifications to and from the administration of justice as from 1 January 2016. This system offers a series of advantages, such as immediacy in the availability of professionals in relation to procedural rulings, access to documentation at all times and from anywhere (security, consultation, archives and availability), presentation of writs and documents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Finally, this has led to a significant cost saving. For example, from 2010 to 2015, more than 200 million notifications have been made electronically rather than on paper.

During 2015, a major effort was made by the ministerial department, both in regulatory and technological terms, with the provision of the resources needed and cooperation with the parties involved.

At a regulatory level, the Civil Procedure Act 42/2015 was reformed and Royal Decree 1065/2015 was approved to be implemented throughout the territory covered by the Ministry of Justice. At a technological level, the capacity of the electronic notification system Lexnet - the viewer for electronic files and the system for electronic signatures - was developed and improved, and offered free of charge to all autonomous regions. The new mobile application LexNETAPP was created to receive, in a flexible manner and in real time, information regarding notifications received and writs presented via this system. Furthermore, more than 7,000 screens and 500 scanners were supplied such that all public officials at judicial headquarters throughout the territory managed by the ministerial department work with dual displays. More than 9,000 workers have been trained and support for users has been strengthened by supplying additional personnel to man the phones and new web channels and the twitter account.

Similarly, a lot of time and effort has been put into working with the General Council of the Judiciary, the State Attorney's Office and regional governments through the Technical Committee for Electronic Judicial Administration (Spanish acronym: CTEAJE), sector conferences and bilateral meetings with regional councillors, and ongoing dialogue with the general councils of the legal associations. Noteworthy is the creation of the Digital Justice Commission, which gathers together each of the high-level institutions in the sector.

Oficina de atención al ciudadano (Ministerio de Justicia)
The Ministry of Justice implemented a pilot project of SMS alerts to victims of gender-based violence at Court no. 1 for Violence against Women in Albacete, which has been operating since 15 October 2015. Whenever a victim leaves her mobile phone number, the court provides this service automatically and informs victims via SMS alerts of relevant facts regarding whether the detainee is in prison, has been released, is subject to a restraining order or other protection orders, and other court orders.

As of 7 November, a new model of electronic auction has been set up which fosters bidding processes; thus enhancing the economic performance of assets auctioned through a more transparent system. A fast and accessible procedure is established to set up, manage and, as the case may be, electronically return the deposits required to take part in all judicial and notary auctions carried out online, through a single portal run by the Official State Gazette Agency (Spanish acronym: ABOE).

Until recently, the birth of a child required one of the parents, normally the father, to visit a Civil Registry Office within eight days of the birth. This situation was a significant inconvenience for citizens who due to a bureaucratic formality, were obliged to leave the care of the child and the associated logistics, which are so intense in the first few days following a birth. Under the new system, now implemented at some 100 hospitals, parents no longer need to visit the Civil Registry Office. Notification of the birth is made at the hospital, which collates a series of data and documents from the parents and the new-born which are then forwarded electronically to the corresponding Civil Registry Office. More than 10,000 births were registered in the first 75 days of operation of this new system.

Similarly, an electronic procedure is established for nationality formalities. The new procedure is based on all phases of the process being handled electronically. This is run by the Directorate-General of Registry and Notary Offices and the final resolution is notified to the interested party within a maximum term of one year from the initial application. A transitional process is established until 30 June 2017 in which interested parties may also present their application at the Civil Registry Office corresponding to their domicile. As from that date this will be performed through the corresponding electronic application, by means of authorisation agreements that the Ministry of Justice signs with public bodies of the General State Administration and other professional colleges and association.

Law 18/2011, of 5 July, regulating the use of information and communication technologies in the administration of justice, establishes that those public authorities with competence for justice matters must provide the pertinent resources to electronically process these procedures prior to 7 July 2016. The ministerial department has made major progress in this regard and has already implemented this system in Cuenca, at four courthouses and in the judicial review division of the National high Court. In addition to the material resources necessary and document readers, registration takes place through electronic means, as well as the distribution and processing of these issues, which are performed through the procedural management system known as Minerva.

Since November 2015, a new system has been started up in all the judicial bodies in the Region of Madrid, whereby all warrants, precautionary measures and sentences relating to binding rulings on domestic and gender-based violence rulings are automatically sent from the SIRAJ registry system to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Notifications between judicial offices and State law enforcement agencies will take place automatically through an interoperability platform in which all the parties involved are connected.

Legislative and regulatory action

In 2012, the regulatory strategy of the Ministry of Jus­tice was planned for the past legislature. Subsequent initiatives have sought to improve the quality of the legal frame­work, while guaranteeing citizen's rights and strengthening the role of the Justice Administration as a contributor to the com­petitiveness of the Spanish economy.

Within this regulatory strategy, noteworthy is the regulation and implementation of new measures to resolve conflicts that are faster and cheaper for individuals and companies, thus fostering a new culture on this issue. To this end, Law 5/2012, of 6 July, on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Cases, established a general system for mediation in this area through a model based on the free will of the parties and on the participation of a mediator geared towards helping the parties themselves resolve the controversy. Moreover, Royal Decree 980/2013, of 13 December, developing certain aspects of Law 5/2012, of 6 July, on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Cases, regulated the minimum training requirements, set up the Mediators' Register and developed the provisions relating to civil liability insurance and the simplified procedure by electronic means for monetary claims of up to 600 euros. The Mediators' Register and the mediation institutions have been up-and-running since July 2014.

Progress is also being made on the necessary streamlining and the guarantee of free legal aid. To this end, following approval of Law 10/2012, of 20 November, regulating certain charges under the scope of the administration of justice and the National Toxicology and Forensic Science Institute and the reforms thereof, and Law 25/2015, of 28 July, excluding court fees for individuals, Law 1/1996, of 10 January, on Free Legal Aid, was also amended (through Law 42/2015, of 5 October), with the aim of improving the system and guaranteeing its sustainability, improving its regulation, improving the situation of certain groups and introducing the necessary corrections to the same.

Instituto Nacional de Toxicología y Ciencias Forenses (Ministerio de Justicia)Progress has also been made towards the necessary streamlining of litigiousness and the safeguarding of free legal aid. Hence, following the adoption of Law/10/2012, of 20 November, regulating certain Justice Administration and National Toxicology and Forensic Science Institute fees, and its reform by way of Royal Decree-Law 3/2013, of 22 February, modifying the fee system in the Justice Administration and the free legal aid system, a draft law to reform Law 1/1996, of 10 January, on Free Legal Aid is due to be approved shortly following its passage through Parliament, with the aim of improving and guaranteeing sustainability, as well as a revision of the current court fees designed to improve their regulation and introduce therein such corrections as are necessary.

Furthermore, this year saw the approval of the Draft Law on Voluntary Jurisdiction, which seeks to systematise disperse regulations that exist on this matter. Hence, procedures are simplified and modernised for those issues that are not subject to controversy, but in which the intervention of a judicial body is necessary to oversee certain rights and interests of a civil and commercial law nature.

Work has continued on developing the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act, with a view to ob­taining more professional and responsible bankruptcy administrators. To this end, Royal Decree 1333/2012, of 21 September, was approved, regulating civil liability insurance and the equivalent guarantee of bankruptcy administrators, followed by the approval of Royal Decree 892/2013, of 15 November, regulating the Public Insolvency Registry, which enables the outcome and processing of bankruptcy proceedings to be made public to ensure transparency and legal certainty. In 2014, Law 17/2014, of 30 September, adopting urgent measures on re-financing and re-structuring business debt was approved and, in 2015, Law 9/2015, of 25 May, on Urgent Measures in Bankruptcy Cases.

In 2013, Law 14/2013, of 27 September, to support entrepreneurs and their Internationalisation was approved, with the principal aim of speeding up and facilitating entrepreneurial activity. As part of the regulatory development of this law, the Government approved the Royal Decree 421/2015, of 29 May, which regulates the standard State models and public deeds of limited liability companies, and an instruction on the legalisation of company books has also been approved.

In addition, Law 14/2014, of 24 July, on Maritime Navigation establishes the general modernised system for maritime traffic, which is comparable with other Member States of the European Union and the OECD, thus bringing to an end Book III of the 1885 Code of Commerce which has been in force for 125 years.

In 2015 major reforms of core legislation that currently governs Spanish justice have been passed, such as the reform of the Constitutional Law on the Judiciary, the Civil Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

The amendments to the Constitutional Law on the Judiciary that were pushed through by Constitutional Law 7/2015, of 21 july, introduce a series of specific reforms aimed at making the judicial organisation more flexible, making it faster and more specialised in resolving certain procedures, making it more user-friendly, making the Spanish judicial system more internationally-orientated, improving the judicial response to gender-based violence, building a better Judicial Office to help serve jurisdictional tasks, introducing specific instruments to improve legal certainty, together with organisational improvements, and extending the rights of litigants, thus ensuring greater democratic quality.

This same approach towards professionalising the justice system was also contained in the various legal amendments already pushed through, such as Constitutional Law 8/2012, of 27 December, on Efficient Budgetary Measures in the Justice Administration, which modified Constitutional Law 6/1985, of 1 July, on the Judiciary, resulting in important savings in terms of fully implementing a system of professional replacements for judges and prosecutors, duly remunerated, thus improving the quality of our justice system.

Also in 2015, the Law 43/2015, of 5 October, on the reform of the Civil Procedure Act was approved. In its main aspects, the reform has arisen due to the need to implement a complementary regulation on the tasks of the court attorney as a collaborator in the administration of justice, at the heart of which, but without losing its original function as the procedural representative of litigants, will mean taking on a greater role in the work of administrating and processing judicial procedures, particularly notifications. At the same time, guarantees deriving from the constitutional right to effective legal protection in oral hearings are stepped up, the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union is complied with in relation to the regulation of small claims in Spain and the examination of abusive clauses in consumer contracts, and special emphasis is placed on speeding up and modernising formalities in judicial proceedings. Finally, it seeks to boost the use of new information and communication technologies, and to better serve the goal of certainty in legal relations to reduce the volume of litigation, simplifying the legal system on prescription by unifying certain periods and maintaining the necessary balance between the interests of parties involved in the prescription.

Biblioteca del Ministerio de Justicia (Ministerio de Justicia)The Constitutional Law 13/2015, of october 5, amending the Criminal Procedure Act was approved in order to speed up criminal justice, strengthen procedural guarantees and regulate measures on technological investigation. This law introduces various mechanisms to speed up the criminal process, regulate technological investigation measures and strengthen the system of procedural guarantees in accordance with European Union Law and the consolidated case law of the European Court of Human Rights. It introduces, as well, a second hearing in criminal cases in Spain.

Also in relation to criminal law, work continued to complete a major reform of the current Criminal Code in 2015, to carry out a review of the criminal system to provide a response to new criminal offences and very serious crimes along the same lines as our peer countries. Furthermore, Constitutional Law 14/2015, of 14 October, on the Criminal Military Code, was approved.

Noteworthy is the creation of the Office for the Recovery and Management of Assets, set up as a body under the General State Administration to assist in the administration of justice, which is assigned powers to locate, recover, store, administer and manage all effects, goods, instruments and earnings from criminal activities committed within the framework of a criminal organisation and any others attributed thereto in the terms provided for under criminal and procedural law.

Also in relation to criminal issues, 2015 saw the approval of the Law on the Victims' Statute, which seeks to establish a general list of procedural and extra-procedural rights of all victims of crime, with the main new feature that all victims will be entitled to invoke these rights whether a party to criminal proceedings or not. This right is regardless of the specific systems for victims of terrorism and gender-based violence, which have their own special regulations

Law 15/2015, of 2 July, on voluntary jurisdiction, systematises the disperse existing legislation on the matter and provides a response to the need for a new adapted, reasonable and realistic legal order for the voluntary jurisdiction, offering our citizens effective and straightforward means which facilitate obtaining certain legal effects swiftly, while respecting all the rights and interests involved.

In terms of Spain's membership of the European Union and criminal judicial cooperation with other Member States, 2014 was particularly important in terms of the approval of three significant Acts of Parliament: Law 23/2014, of 20 November, on the Reciprocal Recognition of Criminal Rulings in the European Union; Constitutional Law 6/2014, of 19 October, complementing the aforesaid law and modifying Constitutional Law 6/1985, of 1 July, on the Judiciary and Constitutional Law 7/2014, of 12 November, on the Exchange of Information on Criminal Records and the Consideration of Criminal Judicial Rulings in the European Union. These laws incorporate a raft of European laws into the Spanish legal system that generalise the reciprocal recognition of criminal judicial rulings in the European Union, replacing the former system of notifications between central or governmental authorities by direct notifications between the judicial authorities.

Moreover, work was carried out in 2015 on compliance with European legislation in approving the Law 16/2015, of 7 July, regulating the Statute on the Spanish National Member of Eurojust, jurisdictional conflicts, judicial networks on international cooperation and the personnel dependent on the Ministry of Justice overseas, which replaces the previous Law 16/2006, of 26 May, regulating the Statute on the National Member of Eurojust and relations between this body and the European Union.

Other important laws passed in 2015 include Law 19/2015, of 13 July, on administrative reform measures within the scope of the administration of justice and civil registry offices, which contains a series of measures that provide public authorities with instruments to enhance efficiency and provide the flexibility demanded by our citizens and the country's economy, including the registration of new-borns at Civil Registry Offices electronically directly from hospitals; Constitutional Law 5/2015, of 27 April, amending the Civil Procedure Act and the Constitutional Law on the Judiciary, which transposes Directive 2010/64/EU, of 20 October, on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings and Directive 2012/13/EU, of 22 May, on the right to information in criminal proceedings; the Law 13/2015, of 24 June, on the Reform of the Mortgage Act approved by the Decree of 8 February 1946 and the Recast Text of the Real Estate Cadastre, approved by Royal Legislative Decree 1/2004, of 5 March, which principally seeks to coordinate existing information between the Property Register and the Real Estate Cadastre to better identify properties and offer a more suitable service to citizens and the public authorities; and the Law 15/2015, of 24 june, granting Spanish Nationality to Sephardi Jews originating from Spain who are able to substantiate this status and their special ties to Spain, modifying Article 23 of the Spanish Civil Code.

Work is also being done on other issues such as the Draft Bill on International Legal Cooperation on civil issues, the Draft Bill on Exercising Parental Co-responsibility and other measures to be adopted in the event of nullification, legal separation or divorce, and the Draft Bill on the Commercial Code, which will replace the current legislation in force since 1885.

Furthermore, other important laws have been passed this year, such as Law 29/2015, of 30 July, on international legal cooperation on civil matters, Law 35/2015, of 22 September, reforming the system for the assessment of damages caused to individuals in traffic accidents, know in the sector as a 'scale'.

All these initiatives fall within the framework of the Justice Administration geared towards the transformation of this triple approach: as an essential public service, as a pillar of the rule of law and as a fundamental element for economic reactivation and job creation. This has thus been designed as a policy orientated towards providing Spain with a more efficient, more professional and more accessible Justice Administration for all involved.