| Legal Flash! | March 2020 | Royal Decree 463/2020 was published declaring the state of emergency in Spain |

On March 14th, 2020, Royal Decree 463/2020 was published declaring the state of emergency in Spain to manage the COVID-19 health crisis (hereinafter the “Royal Decree”).

The Royal Decree came into force on the same day that it was published on the Government Official Gazette, March 14th, and will apply for the next 15 calendar days, i.e., until March 30th, 2020. Nonetheless, it may be extended as required until the situation is under control. 

The measures agreed by the Government by means of the Royal Decree, as well as those agreed upon by any other Governmental Institutions after it came into force, are as follows:

  1. Royal Decree main provisions

a. Suspension of procedural deadlines

All procedural deadlines have been suspended and time periods have been interrupted pursuant additional provision 2 of the Royal Decree. These shall resume once the Royal Decree, or any of its extensions if applicable, cease to be in force.

The aforementioned suspension does not apply to the following scenarios and services:

  • In civil courts: non-voluntary commitments to Mental Health Institutions, and regulations on Child Protection.
  • In criminal courts: habeas corpus procedures, on-duty services, restraining orders, urgent prison surveillance services, and child and gender-based violence injunctive reliefs and interim measures.
  • In administrative courts: proceedings to protect fundamental Human Rights, court approvals to access private properties or any other private premises when such access must be otherwise authorised by the legal owner, and ratifications of public health urgent measures deemed necessary by the competent Health Authorities, but entailing a limitation or deprivation of Rights.
  • In labour courts: collective actions and proceedings to protect fundamental Human Rights and civil liberties.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Royal Decree provides for any judge or court to take any actions deemed necessary to prevent any parties from suffering irreparable harm to their rights and legal interests.

b. Suspension of administrative deadlines

Furthermore, deadlines and time periods for administrative proceedings with Public Entities have been suspended and interrupted -respectively-, pursuant additional provision 3 of the Royal Decree, and shall be resumed once the Royal Decree, or any of its extensions if applicable, cease to be in force. This does not apply to proceedings and rulings inextricably linked to the facts that triggered the state of emergency.

These suspensions and interruptions apply across the totality of the public sector: the Spanish Central State Administration, Regional and Local Administrations, as well as any other Public Institutions, as defined in article 2 of the 39/2015 Act from October 1st on Standard Administrative Procedures for Public Administrations.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, pursuant additional provision 3, the competent body may establish any measures deemed necessary to prevent serious harm to the rights and legal interests of any party involved in the procedure, provided they agree on such measures and on the time period not being suspended.

c. Suspension of prescription and limitation periods

Prescription and statute of limitation periods are suspended during the time the state of emergency is in force, pursuant additional provision 4 of the Royal Decree. 

  1. Other relevant agreements adopted as a result of the Royal Decree by other public bodies

a. Agreement of the Spanish Judicial Authority (Consejo General del Poder Judicial)

As a consequence of the Royal Decree of March 14, 2020, the Spanish Judicial Authority agreed in an extraordinary session to suspend scheduled legal proceedings and procedural deadlines throughout the national territory while the referred Royal Decree or, where appropriate, its extensions are in force.

In any case, the Spanish Judicial Authority together with the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor General’s Office have agreed to guarantee the following judicial actions that could cause irreparable damage if not performed:

  • Urgent non-voluntary commitments to Mental Health Institutions.
  • The adoption of interim measures or other actions which cannot be postponed, such as measures for the protection of children.
  • Courts that deal with gender-based violence will maintain on-duty services as scheduled in order to ensure that protection orders and any interim measures regarding violence against women and children are issued timely.
  • The Civil Registry will remain open in order to ensure the correct registry of burials, births and the possibility of marriage for those in danger of death.
  • All actions in relation to arrested people and others that may not be postponed, such as the adoption of urgent interim measures, removal of bodies, etc.
  • Any action in relation with prisoners or arrested people.
  • Urgent prison surveillance services.
  • The administrative courts will ensure urgent access authorizations (to premises for example) for health reasons, procedures related with fundamental rights which must be urgently decided, interim measures and appeals in relation to elections.
  • The labour courts will ensure the celebration of urgent hearings and the enforcement of urgent interim measures as well as the temporary suspension or permanent termination of employment proceedings.
  • In general, all urgent procedures in which breach of fundamental human rights is alleged (that is, those in which a postponement would prevent from or make the claim very difficult).

 b. Agreements adopted in relation to Registries and Notaries Public

Registrars and notaries public will not cease their activity due to the coronavirus crisis as their services are public and essential.

The Registries Authority adopted a resolution on March 15th, 2020 which sets forth that Registrars will provide their services pursuant to Article 5 of Royal Decree 1935/1983, of May 25th, exclusively by email or by telephone. The relevant email address of each registrar may be found on the website registradores.org. Additionally, such resolution of March 15th, 2020, provides that the suspension of the statutes of limitations provided for in the Royal Decree is fully applicable to property, commercial and personal property registries.

The General Council of Notaries Public has also informed that the notary public offices will remain open. However, as far as possible they should be contacted by telephone or e-mail instead of visiting their offices personally and only for urgent actions or those defined by the Government. In addition, notaries public will not summon interested parties for actions that do not have such character. The contact details may be found at www.notariado.org.

In any case, those who consider they require urgent notarial action should contact the notary public by telephone or, if possible, submit electronically a document through the aforementioned website in which they must indicate their contact data, including telephone number, as well as the requested notarial action.

If the action required by the interested party is urgent, the provision of the notary public’s service will be subject to the following measures:

  • Access to the notary will only be granted to the interested party and, according to the notarial legislation, others such as interpreters or witnesses.
  • The interested party will be attended exclusively in the office of the notary public and for the time necessary to guarantee the purpose set forth in the Royal Decree.
  • The interested party shall attend the appointment in a timely manner, provided with the necessary means of auto-protection to avoid any health risk.
  • At the notary’s office, both, staff and the notary public, will maintain the security distances recommended by the relevant authorities.
  • In order to guarantee the provision of the notary public services, the notary public will establish shifts at its office if possible, in accordance with the current labour legislation in force.
  • The notary public shall provide their employees with a document as a safe-conduct so that they may proof that they are on their way to their working place.