Iura Novit Curia and Commercial Arbitration in Spain - Chapter 12 - Iura Novit Curia in International Arbitration
Originally from Iura Novit Curia in International Arbitration
The iura novit curia doctrine plays a considerable role in civil proceedings before Spanish courts. Its prominent position as a principle of civil procedure law has very much influenced its increasing significance in the practice of Spanish courts reviewing arbitral decisions. Particularly in the context of actions brought for setting aside awards, it has become almost commonplace by Spanish courts to make express references to the iura novit curia principle as the cornerstone of the leeway that arbitrators enjoy when exercising their powers to decide a dispute. Therefore, even if the scholarly discussion on the implications of the iura novit curia maxim to arbitration remains limited in Spain , case-law is particularly abundant and repetitive in this respect.
In order to analyse the situation in Spain in the context of the current global debate on this issue, it seems appropriate to begin with an overview of the current legal framework, including international conventions binding on Spain, the relevant national legislation and arbitration rules (section II, infra). Since the iura novit curia principle is only laid down as such in the general rules on civil procedure and the case law on the interpretation of such rules has decisively influenced the application of the principle to arbitration proceedings, it seems appropriate to continue with a discussion of the main characteristics of the application of the iura novit curia principle in civil proceedings before ordinary courts (section III). The basic features of the trend by Spanish courts to consider that iura novit curia is applicable to arbitration are further presented (section IV). Three grounds of annulment or non-recognition of awards deserve particular attention as limits to the recourse by arbitrators to iura novit curia in the light of the judicial review of arbitral awards by Spanish courts: fair hearing, excess of power and, to a lesser degree, procedural irregularity (section V). Furthermore, the implications of certain rules regarding the conduct of arbitral proceedings on the arbitrators’ leeway resulting from the iura novit curia doctrine are also discussed (section VI). Finally, some remarks on the main factors influencing the interpretation of the iura novit curia principle to arbitration proceedings by the different actors involved are presented (section VII).