Madrid Resumes the Construction of a “City of Justice”

7 February 2024 - Michael Fries

For decades, the spatial situation of the courts and tribunals in Madrid has been lagging far behind the needs of an economic and political metropolis of an industrialised country and established economy. While other major Spanish cities have long had modern palaces of justice, Madrid’s courts and tribunals are still spread across the entire city and work in outdated buildings that no longer meet the technical standards of an increasingly digitalised judicial system.

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20 years ago, there was already a serious attempt to change this situation with the construction of a “city of justice” (ciudad de la justicia). However, only one of the 21 buildings originally planned, the Institute of Forensic Medicine, was realised. The project failed due to the onset of the financial crisis, among other things, and instead of solving the space problem of the Madrilenian judicial system, it resulted in innumerable court cases and political disputes.

The Secretary of Justice of the Autonomous Community of Madrid has now announced that the city-of-justice project will be revived. The project is divided into two spending packages with a total investment volume of EUR 680 million (20 years ago: EUR 350 million) and will be put out for tender before the end of this April. On a plot of land of 132,000 square metres, 10 to 13 buildings are to be constructed, with a total overground surface area of 236,000 square metres and additional 132,000 square metres for underground space. The plot foreseen for the project is located in the district Valdebebas, in the immediate vicinity of the airport and the Sports City of a well-known Madrid football club.

The first spending package with a volume of EUR 203 million is to be invested in the construction of the buildings of the Regional Court of Justice (Tribunal Superior de Justicia) and the Provincial Court of Justice as well as 2,900 parking spaces. The second package covers two construction phases, with a total volume of EUR 477 million for the construction of the buildings of the civil and criminal courts and the public prosecutor’s office as well as an additional 2,000 parking spaces for judiciary staff.

The first construction phase (46% of the total volume) is scheduled to begin in early 2025 and be completed by September 2026. The second construction phase (19% of the total volume) includes the family, commercial, labour and administrative courts and is planned to begin in October 2026 and be completed by September 2027. The third construction phase (the remaining 35%: courts of instruction and criminal courts, domestic violence courts) is supposed to begin in October 2027 and be completed by December 2028.

The successful completion of the city-of-justice project would certainly lead to the long-needed improvement of Madrid as a court location. Such improvement will become particularly evident in civil matters, as the recent comprehensive reform of the Spanish Law on Civil Proceedings (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil) has made the use of modern means of telecommunication indispensable. The reform was supposed to lead to a significant acceleration of proceedings, without suitably equipped court facilities, however, this cannot be guaranteed. With the city-of-justice project on the horizon, this might change in Madrid soon. The project would also bring relief for the 30,000 people working in the capital’s judicial system and would clearly benefit lawyers and court agents who represent their clients in court on a daily basis.

In addition to the modernisations, the project provides for the consolidation of a total of 376 judicial bodies and courts, which are currently spread across 26 (!) different buildings in Madrid.

Let’s hope that this time good things do not come in threes, but only in twos!