Requests for clarification of court decisions: legal interpretation and its effect on the interruption of appeal periods
Published on 22nd Mar 2022
Adding a new twist on Articles 214 and 215 of the Spanish Civil Procedure Law, Commercial Court no. 1 in Oviedo declared, through an Order of 10 February 2022 that once a request for clarification of a decision has been resolved, only the content related to the clarification that was requested can be appealed, but not the said decision in its entirety.
The principle of the unchangeability of court decisions once they have been signed, set forth in Article 214 of the Spanish Civil Procedure Law (hereinafter "LEC", by its Spanish acronym), does not prevent them from being clarified with regard to any obscure concept, rectified if they suffer from a material or arithmetic error, or corrected or supplemented in the terms provided for in Article 215 of LEC.
In accordance with the provisions of the fifth paragraph of Article 215 of LEC, when a clarification, rectification, correction, or complement of a court decision is requested, the period for filing other pertinent appeals against such court decision is interrupted.
Settled case-law establishes that these procedural remedies cannot be used for purposes other than those specifically provided for in the law. In particular, they cannot be used for dilatory purposes, i.e., aimed at artificially extending the legally established period for filing the pertinent appeals.
In this regard, the above mentioned court decision of Commercial Court no. 1 in Oviedo (hereinafter, "the Court") has gone one step further. The Court has declared that once a request for clarification of a decision has been dictated, only the content that has been object of clarification can be appealed, but not the decision in its entirety; considering it procedural fraud to attempt to request a clarification on a secondary point to appeal the main point later.
In this particular case, the plaintiff filed a brief requesting clarification on a single point, and its request did not contain "the slightest complaint or sign of disagreement with the content of the order."
Once said decision had been clarified by the Court, the plaintiff took the opportunity to, in the words of the Court, "convert this tacit agreement with the most radical opposition to the substantive content" of the court decision, that is, precisely appealing what was not the object of any clarification.
The Magistrate-Judge considers that the reason behind article 215.5 of LEC is no other than the understanding that "the appellant cannot adequately construct his appeal without knowing the content of the clarification or complement," and that since none of this has occurred in the case, "the procedural fraud is obvious, and the response of the legal system is clear."
In conclusion, and although the analysed resolution does not constitute the majority position among our courts, when thinking of appealing a court decision, extreme precautions should be taken in the calculation of the periods, especially if any clarification, correction, rectification, and complement foreseen in articles 214 and 215 of LEC has been formulated or is intended to be formulated. It would also be prudent to analyse whether it is advisable to state, in the request for clarification, any disagreement with the court decision or the intention to appeal based on the result of the request made.