Citizen Information

The Courts of Justice of Peace are unusual courts with their own characteristics of functioning and organization. The legal basis that supported its creation in modern times was Law 78/2001, de 13 de July - Law of Organization, Competence and Functioning of Justice of Peace, commonly known as Law of Justice of Peace, which was amended for the first time by Law No. 54/2013, of 31 July. The constitutional basis is Article 209 of the Constitution.

The first Courts of Justice of the Peace of the new era began operating in January and February 2002, initially operating as an experimental project, in a context of promoting new and different forms of dispute resolution, based on streamlined and effective models of jurisdiction, in close collaboration with the Local Authority (municipalities) and in a perspective of proximity between the jurisdiction and the citizens. The Courts of Justice of Peace are, therefore, based on a public/public partnership between the State and the municipalities, with the respective funding being shared between these two entities.

With the changes introduced to the Law on The Courts of Justice of the Peace in 2013, it became evident that other public entities of recognized merit can also intervene in the creation of the Courts of justice of peace.

In the current legal context, the Justices of the Peace are competent to assess and decide civil declaratory actions, with the exception of those involving matters of family law, inheritance law and labour law, whose value does not exceed €15,000. The actions that can be resolved in the Courts of Justice of t Peace, under the terms of article 9 of Law 78/2001, of 13th of July, with the alterations introduced by Law 54/2013, of 31 of July, are as follows:

  • Actions aimed at fulfilling obligations, with the exception of those that have as their object the fulfilment of a pecuniary obligation and concern adhesion contract (example: contracts, unilateral deals, business management, etc.);
  • Actions for delivery of movable things (example: actions for delivery of documents);
  • Actions resulting from the rights and duties of joint owners, whenever the respective Assembly has not deliberate on the mandatory arbitration agreement for the resolution of disputes between joint owners or between joint owners and the administrator (example: payment for roofing works, general water installations , or elevators);
  • Actions for resolving disputes between property owners relating to momentary forced passage, natural drainage of water, defensive water works, communion of ditches, gutters and ditches, living hedges; opening windows, doors, balconies and similar works; eaves-drip, trees and shrubs, dividing walls and gates;
  • Actions of replevin, possessory actions, adverse possession and accession and division of common property actions;
  • Actions that respect the right of use and administration of joint ownership, surface, usufruct, use and housing and the real right to periodic housing;
  • Actions concerning urban renting, except for eviction actions (example: action of condemnation for payment of rents);
  • Actions regarding contractual and non-contractual civil liability (example: actions resulting from traffic accidents, actions resulting from damage caused by things, animals or activities);
  • Actions regarding civil breach of contract, except employment contracts and rural tenancies;
  • Actions that respect the general guarantee of obligations (example: action of declaration of nullity, revocatory impugnation action, etc.);
  • Actions relating to claims for civil damages, when no criminal participation has been presented or after withdrawal of the same, arising from the following crimes: simple bodily harm, offense to physical integrity due to negligence; defamation; injuries; simple theft; simple damage; change of milestones; scam to obtain food, drink or services.

Appeal to the decisions of the Courts of Justice of Peace

Decisions handed down by Courts of Justice of Peace in cases whose value exceeds half of the value of the jurisdiction of the judicial court of 1st instance (from € 2,500.01) may be challenged by means of an appeal to the judicial district court were the Courts of Justice of Peace it is headquartered.

Amendments to the Law of the Courts of Justice of Peace

Law 54/2013, of 31 July, introduced five fundamental innovations with regard to the jurisdiction of the Courts of Justice of Peace:

  • The competence was increased due to the value, from € 5,000 to € 15,000;
  • Jurisdiction was changed due to the matter provided for in subheading a) of paragraph 1 of article 9, in order to focus the exclusion of jurisdiction not on the quality of the person of the claimant, but on the type of contract admitted;
  • It was established that, once the expert evidence is produced, the judicial court of 1st instance must refer the case to the Court of Justice of Peace where the action was taking place in order to proceed with the judgment of the case there;
  • The competence of the Courts of Justice of Peace to deal with procedural incidents was expanded, provided that they are not expressly prohibited by other provisions of the law;
  • The possibility of requesting precautionary measures from the Court of Justice of Peace was introduced, making the recourse to the Court of Justice of Peace a more complete means of defending the rights of citizens who recourse to them.

Modifications were also made to the rules relating to mediation and the nomination of Judges of Peace was extended, the provision of these justice servants went from three to five years, establishing that their renewal can only be operate in compliance with certain legally established requirements, by decision of the Council of The Courts of Justice of Peace.

  • The use of the Courts of Justice of Peace is subject to a single fee of €70 payable by the losing party, and the judge may also decide to divide this amount between the claimant and the defendant, if applicable.
  • If there is an agreement during the mediation, the amount payable is €50, divided by both parties.
  • In the cases provided for by law, Judicial Support may take place in the processes that run their terms in the Court of Justices of Peace.

Mediation only takes place when the parties are in agreement and aims to provide the parties with the possibility of resolving their differences in an amicable way, with the intervention of the mediator, who is an impartial third party. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, the mediator has no decision-making power and therefore does not impose any judgment.

As an impartial third party, the mediator guides the parties, helps them establish the necessary communication so that they can find, for themselves, the basis of the agreement that will put an end to the conflict. The parties are thus responsible for the decisions they take with the help of the mediator. If the mediation does not result in an agreement, the process continues and the Judge tries to conciliate. If conciliation is not reached, a trial will take place, presided over the Judge the peace, the parties being heard, the remaining evidence produced and, finally, the sentence pronounced by the Judge of the peace. Of course, there may be a transaction between the parties alone, on their own exclusive initiative.

Mediation in the Courts of Justice of peace proceeds as follows: After the process has started, pre-mediation takes place in which the parties voluntarily accept, or not, to resolve the conflict through mediation. Once accepted by all parties and selected the mediator, the mediation process begins, which takes place in a room reserved for this purpose. Each mediation session takes place at a date and time agreed by all. Each party will have the opportunity to present its case and express its needs and interests. The agreement that may be established will later be ratified by the Judge of the peace, by sentence.

The mediator has no decision-making power, he is an impartial third party with specific training, selected by the Ministry of Justice, who guides the parties, helps them to establish the necessary dialogue so that they can find, for themselves, the basis of the agreement, which will end the dispute.

  • The parties must appear in person, and may, if they wish, be accompanied by a lawyer, trainee lawyer or solicitor. However, the appointment of a lawyer is mandatory in cases specially provided for by law and when an appeal is filed against the Judgment.
  • The opening hours of the Justices of the Peace are provided for in the respective regulations. There are no judicial vacations at the Courts of Justice of Peace, because they are courts, but they are not judicial and fundamentally, availability is relevant.
  • Currently, 25 Courts of Justice of Peace are in operation, with a wide scope in relation to alignments of municipalities.
  • When there is no Courts of Justice of Peace in the municipality that would be territorially competent, interested parties may use any Courts of Justice of Peace, although only for mediation, and if the parties do not refuse it.

Process Diagram

Process Diagram

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