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:
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:
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.
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.