Just over half of the 5,341 active judges and magistrates in Spain belong to one of the professional associations recognized by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). There are 2,994, 56% of the total, according to the latest official data updated to September 2020. This percentage has experienced a slight but sustained increase in recent years, going from 53% in 2004, from when it was the first data offered to the CGPJ, at 56% today.
Conservative and progressive associations account for 60% of judicial appointments although they only represent a third of judges
In other words, almost half of the country’s judges and magistrates are not affiliated with any entity. Among those that are, an overwhelming majority join associations that cover the ideological space of the right or the center-right. The Professional Association of the Magistracy, the Francisco de Vitoria Judicial Association and the Independent Judicial Forum group together 47% of the judges, while 8% are affiliated with Judges and Judges for Democracy.
These are professional organizations that look after the corporate interests of their members, since judges and magistrates have their political and union rights limited by law and cannot belong to parties or unions.
The main association by number of members is the Professional Association of the Magistracy (APM), of a conservative tendency. It currently has 1,345 members, 25% of the career. That is, one out of every four judges and magistrates who are currently active belong to this association chaired by Manuel Almenar, magistrate of the Provincial Court of Pontevedra. Created in 1980, its number of affiliates has been on the rise in recent years. It has gone from 1,115 in 2004 to 1,345 in 2020. It is an increase of around 20%. Taking into account only the number of associated judges and magistrates, their predominance is total: 45% are from the APM.
The second by level of representation is the Francisco de Vitoria Judicial Association (AJFV) with 845 associates, 16% of the career. Its national spokesperson is Jorge Fernández Vaquero, head of a court of first instance in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz). It was created as a current of opinion within the conservative APM and ended up becoming an independent association in 1984. Although it has stabilized in recent years, its number of affiliates has increased in recent decades, from 410 members in 2004 to the current ones. 845. 28% of the associate judges are from the AJFV.
The progressive Judges and Judges for Democracy is the third association by number of members: 451, 8% of the total number of active judges and magistrates. Among the associates, their representation reaches 15%. It was established in 1983 after the experience that the Democratic Justice organization had provided during the Franco dictatorship. Its current spokesperson is Ascensión Martín Sánchez, a magistrate of the Murcia Superior Court of Justice. After reaching 530 members in 2015, this association has been losing members since then. It lived through its biggest crisis in 2017 – when it lost almost fifty associates – at a time when some affiliates were critical of the association’s position with the judicial decisions regarding the process.
The fourth association by number of members is the Independent Judicial Forum (FJI), with 336 associates, 6% of the career, a percentage that rises to 11% taking into account only the volume of associate judges. FJI was created in 2002 and its president is Concepción Rodríguez, head of a juvenile court in Madrid. Its membership has been on the rise in recent years, from 161 members in 2004 to 336 today, although it is still the smallest in number of associates of the four main ones.
A very minority character have the other two associations recognized by the CGPJ. Agora Judicial, with 13 members in 2020, was created in 2018 mainly by the section in Catalonia of Judges for Democracy critical of the judicialization of the sovereign process. Although in their presentation they affirmed that they aspired to obtain support from robes from the rest of Spain, they seem not to have succeeded. Agora Judicial has gone from having 22 associates in 2018 to 13 in the last official record. Only four members currently have the National Association of Judges (ANJ), founded in 2002 and which an attempt was made to reactivate in 2009 to encourage the mobilization against the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which had to face the first strike of judges in Spain.
The judges’ associations are financed by the fees of their associates and the subsidies they receive from the CGPJ. During this mandate, which began on December 4, 2013, they have received 3.1 million euros in grants from the governing body. These grants are granted for carrying out activities of “interest to justice and associative life”, for financing training activities and for their “organization and operating expenses”. In addition, there is a fourth item that is awarded based on the results obtained in the last elections to the Government Chambers of the Superior Courts.
The Professional Association of the Magistracy is the one that has received the most funds —966,765 euros in this period—, followed by the Francisco de Vitoria Judicial Association, with 826,902 euros; Judges and Judges for Democracy, with 755,493 euros; and Independent Judicial Forum, with 585,344 euros.
Power of attorney
The four main judicial associations agree to reform the law so that twelve of the twenty members of the CGPJ —those that the Constitution requires that they belong to the judicial career— “are elected by the judges according to a democratic system that ensures the representation of all the categories and existing sensitivities within the judicial career “, according to a statement released this week.
According to the current model, the judges screen the names – the candidates must have the endorsement of an association or 25 endorsements from members of the race – and from that selection the parties choose as long as they reach a three-fifths majority. in the Cortes. However, among the 12 members of the judiciary, the majority are endorsed by the judges’ associations. Of the current Council, five are linked to the APM, three to Judges and Judges for Democracy and four are not associated.
The four main associations have called for a return to the system that was in force until 1985, in which those 12 members were selected directly by their colleagues through suffrage. With this system, the APM candidacy – which was the only one constituted up to that moment in the judicial sphere – won the elections to the CGPJ in 1980 and took all those positions despite the fact that there were open lists. In addition to the APM, the Independent Judicial Candidacy and the Independent Candidacy of Labor Magistrates were presented, according to The country. More recently and after a succession of excuses, the PP now puts the return to this election system as a condition for agreeing to renewal, despite the fact that it did not promote this change during its two absolute majority.
The associations also play a key role in the election of the highest members of the judiciary through the General Council of the Judicial Power, which appoints the magistrates of the Supreme Court and the main positions of the National High Court, the higher courts and the hearings. provincial. Especially, the conservative APM and the progressive Judges and Judges for Democracy, who make up 60% of judicial appointments although they only represent a third of the judges, according to calculations by elDiario.es. In contrast, non-associated judges, who make up 43% of the judiciary, only accessed 30% of the discretionary appointment positions awarded by the CGPJ between 2014 and 2020.
The APM, which represents 25% of the judges, agreed to 78 appointments, 37%. Best stop is Judges and Judges for Democracy, which although it represents 8% of the race, was second in appointments. A total of 51 judges linked to this progressive group were appointed between 2014 and 2020, 24.3% of the appointments. The Francisco de Vitoria Association, second in number of affiliates with 16% of the career, barely acceded to 8% of the appointments, with a total of 17.