CÁDIZ There are so many cases regarding the cláusula suelo mortgage contract scandal at the only Juzgado de lo Mercantil (Commercial Court) in the provincial capital that the judge has turned to the press to complain that she and her staff are overwhelmed. It isn't just the 80 cláusula suelo cases that came in in a single alone, though, that have brought things to standstill. Judge Mª Castillo Mendaro Durantes works without any other judge to help her - and that is the systemic problem with the Spanish judiciary. Castillo Mendaro expects a substitute judge to be named in September, not because she intends to leave but because substitute judges are also assigned to help sitting magistrates, as well as to replace them.>>>However, the system is so convoluted that the new substitute could take five or six months to actually begin work.
There are some 600 cases pending at this court, which deals with commercial litigation only, at various stages of procedure. Commencement of new procedures have increased geometrically: from a mere five cases in 2004, to 18 in 2007, 64 in 2008, 121 in 2010 and 167 last year. The first half of this year saw another 90 cases begin wending their way through the system, which means that more than last year's can be expected by the end of the year.
The Commercial Court in Cádiz was created in 2004 with five support staff. There are now eleven, but still they can't cope, even with extra hours. Two temporary personnel, plus another secretary were taken on over the last six months, too, all of them posted by various superior organizations, including the Ministry of Justice, its delegation in Cádiz, the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (CGPJ, the judiciary's general council), among others. The problem here is that each of them has what seem to be differing assignments for whoever they post.
On top of that, Judge Castillo Mendaro, is concerned that changes at the CGPJ level, often political as that organ is assigned to by the government in Madrid, may well mean that there will be cutbacks throughout the judicial system but especially for the smaller courts.
'The public administration has invested the least in the judicial services,' she reflects. There is a need for another Commercial Court in Cádiz, she believes, but it is unlikely to see the light for quite some time.