General Council of the Judiciary of Spain

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  • 0:07 General Council of the…
  • 0:49 History & Composition
  • 2:12 Duties
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the history, composition, and duties of the General Council of the Judiciary in Spain, which is the body in charge of ensuring independence and impartiality in the Spanish judicial system.

General Council of the Judiciary

At your high school, did you have a principal? Even though each teacher was in charge of their own classroom and the courses they taught, the principal likely coordinated everything, ran the higher operations of the school, and was the final say on most disagreements between students, faculty, and other employees, right?

Well, in Spain, the General Council of the Judiciary sort of acts as the principal for all of the courts and judges. Even though each judge is in charge of his own court, the General Council of the Judiciary actively ensures that the judiciary runs smoothly and continues to be an independent, impartial body. In this lesson, we'll explore the history and composition of the General Council, as well as its duties as the highest court in Spain.

History and Composition

The General Council of the Judiciary was created as a governing body of the courts by the 1978 Spanish Constitution. Prior to the writing of the Constitution, Spain had been a military dictatorship for nearly four decades. Many of the courts that existed during that period in Spain were either powerless or significantly controlled by the central government of General Francisco Franco. As such, the writers of the 1978 Constitution were largely starting from scratch when it came to crafting a judicial system.

The General Council of the Judiciary was largely structured on similar bodies of Spain's neighbors, such as France, Italy, and Portugal, and its creation was enshrined in the Spanish Constitution's Article 122. The Council is made up of 20 members, all of whom are nominated by the king and elected by the Cortes' two houses, ten each from the Congress and the Senate. Both houses have to agree to elect the candidate by a three-fifths majority. Each member serves a five-year term and may not serve consecutive terms.

Furthermore, 12 of the 20 members must be chosen from the judges and magistrates who are currently active in the profession. The other eight must be chosen from a pool of Spanish lawyers who are considered experts in the field and who have more than 15 years of service. In addition, its own 20 members elects a chairman whom they consider an esteemed judge, lawyer, or otherwise legal expert.


The General Council's highest duty is to monitor, inspect, and maintain the entire judicial branch of Spain to ensure its independence and impartiality. You know that symbolic blindfold on the statue of Lady Justice that you see in front of most courts? Well, the General Court's job is essentially to make sure that blindfold stays in place. It is not necessarily the Court's job to police the courts - indeed, there are many other judicial bodies that are implicitly charged with ensuring the independence of lower courts - but it is the Council's direct prerogative to actively investigate all of Spain's levels of courts to ensure their independence from outside forces.

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