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The Ordinary Declarative Proceeding in Spanish Civil Law

Navigating the judicial steps of an ordinary trial involves understanding some key guidelines.

The process commences with the filing of a lawsuit signed by a lawyer and a mandatory procedural representation (procurator).

The lawsuit, a pivotal document, must be thoroughly drafted, precisely defining the subject of the dispute. Once filed, the lawyer of the administration of justice at the corresponding court of first instance typically admits the lawsuit through a decree, with rare occasions where the judge intervenes.

After admission, the defendants receive a non-extendable 20-days period to respond to the lawsuit. The response to the lawsuit follows the legal format outlined by the law. The defendant either denies, defending their position against the plaintiff's claims, or admits the allegations (with the so-called "allanamiento", it could be translated as waiver or forfeit).

Additionally, the defendant may counterclaim against the plaintiff, issuing a counter-lawsuit into the same proceeding, this is called in Spanish civil law "reconvención". The plaintiff then has 20 days to respond to that counterclaim.

Subsequently, after the response phase, the lawyer of the administration of justice convenes the parties for a Preliminary Hearing (called "Audiencia Previa", literally translated: Previous Audience) before the Oral Trial. In this Preliminary Hearing, parties must be always assisted by legal counsel (lawyer) and, particularly if they choose not to appear in person, by a duly authorised procurator.

In this Pre-trial Hearing, the judge resolves procedural issues, precisely defines the trial's object and scope, and admits/denies the evidence presented in this act by the parties (evidence meaning documentation, witnesses, experts, reports, videos, audios, etc.). The sequence of the Preliminary Hearing is key, and once concluded, subsequent procedural issues cannot be raised.

The Preliminary Hearing may conclude:

- With the dismissal of the case if the plaintiff fails to appear properly (that is without a lawyer and procurator), and the defendant opts not to proceed.

- With a Judgement (20 days to issue), if only the defendant appears and wishes to continue.

- With an agreement between the parties, subject to judicial approval.

- With a Judgement (issued within 20 days), in cases where the dispute is purely legal.

- With the admission/denial of evidence for the trial and the scheduling of the oral trial.

The oral trial is set to take place within a month after the Preliminary Hearing or, if evidence needs to be collected outside the court's jurisdiction, within two months (although the deadlines established by law are not being adhered to due to court saturated schedules).

The trial covers:

- Examination of witnesses, including the parties (each party’s interrogation is requested by the opposing party respectively) and expert witnesses.

- Oral and contradictory reports from experts.

- Judicial recognition, if necessary.

- Reproduction of words, sounds, and images.

Parties must appear at the trial with a lawyer and a procurator; otherwise, they will be considered absent. If neither party appears, the trial proceeds to Judgment. If only one party appears, the trial continues based on that party's statements and evidence. If both parties appear, the oral phase of the ordinary trial takes place.

If there are new facts discovered after the Preliminary Hearing, the parties are to be heard, and evidence could be proposed and admitted only regarding these new facts.

At the act of the trial, once evidence is presented, lawyers provide oral (oral meaning verbally) conclusions, with each lawyer also specifying the legal arguments supporting their claims.

If the judge (there is no jury in the tribunal, only a judge) deems the case not sufficiently illuminated, they grant the parties the opportunity to provide further statements as needed.

Upon completing this final step, the oral trial is ready for Judgment, as declared by the judge. The Judgment must be issued within 20 days from the conclusion of the oral trial (as previously informed, the deadlines stablished by law are not being adhered to due to court saturated schedules).

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