A catastrophe. This is how the president of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia defined (TSJC), Jesus Maria Barrientos, the effects caused by the Covid-19 in the Justice. The judicial administration, which suffers from a flagrant lack of digitization that has almost completely paralyzed its activity and that has barely been able to provide essential services in the last three months, today starts its machinery with an uncertain horizon. It will have to manage the workload that was pending before the health emergency, which already had symptoms of collapse, along with the presumable avalanche of issues related to the economic crisis that threatens to further strain the system. And all with new ways of working that will force them to keep their distance and will slow down the processes.
The magnitude of the catastrophe of coronavirus the figures show it: 75,000 lawsuits not held which must be rescheduled on very tight schedules. “The trials that could not be held will have to be relocated to agendas that were already loaded because most of the organs had already marked the year 2020 and the 2021. Rescheduling trials is a very difficult task, “warned the president of the TSJC.
The Government Room of the judges published a guide to prioritize the trials that were suspended as a result of the pandemic. The task, however, is not easy. What trial will take place earlier: one that was suspended in May or one scheduled for tomorrow? The answer will depend on how each judge is organized. The objective is to air matters as soon as possible but this situation seems complicated in civil and social jurisdictions, where the massive entry of matters such as ERTE, ERE, dismissals or paid leave is foreseen and that, according to the dean judge of Barcelona, Mercè Caso, “will not have absorption capacity” with the current staff. Without a reinforcement plan the situation will be dramatic in the social jurisdiction. There can be no courts that respond to three years from now, “he warned.
“Today is day zero,” said the president of the TSJC. Today the floodgate opens and the avalanche begins. The procedural deadlines are raised, so the case counter is reset to zero. New safety and hygiene protocols are established. Access to the courts will be restricted, an appointment will be required and a maximum capacity will be established in the facilities. Between trials, the furniture will be disinfected, which implies that “perhaps instead of ten trials in the morning, only five can be held,” the judges said yesterday.
The halls of the Ciutat de la Justícia will not all be fully operational to avoid crowds in the corridors, thus enabling the afternoon shift to hold trials. The Barcelona Court, whose building is still pending construction, is looking for space to celebrate its trials. Security measures require that hearings with more than two lawyers be held in the multipurpose room, designed for macro-trials. At the moment the auditorium of the Ciutat de la Justícia will be borrowed and some dependency on the L’Hospitalet courts is being considered.
“We need alternatives,” warns the president of the Court, Antonio Recio. One of the measures proposed by the Ministry of Justice was the authorization in August, a possibility that judges in Catalonia will not apply. “In August the summoned people do not go to court.”