COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 23 (En Español)
Due to the global health emergency caused by COVID-19, the Necessary and Urgent Decree N° 297/2020 was published in the Official Gazette on March 19, 2020 in Argentina. This decree imposed the Compulsory, Social, and Preventive Isolation (ASPO, by its Spanish acronym), which was extended through time by other decrees of similar nature, being the most recent ones: the Necessary and Urgent Decree N° 792/2020, dated October 12, which established the measure of Social, Preventive, and Compulsory Distancing (DISPO, by its Spanish acronym), the Decrees N° 814/2020 dated October 25, Nº 875/2020 dated November 07, and N° 956/2020 dated November 30.
As a result of the decisions adopted by the Federal Executive government, the different courts of the country had to launch, within the framework of their powers, a variety of acts mainly conducted to preserve the health of their personnel and the people who daily attend the courts facilities. Thus, the justice system, at first, worked only through its courts on duty, ensuring a provision of services limited to the attention of urgent matters or those that, by their nature, did not allow delay.
In this context, through agreements and resolutions, the judicial situation was regulated. For reference purposes, only the regulations of the National Supreme Court of Justice (CSJN, by its Spanish acronym), and the Supreme Court of Justice of the province of Buenos Aires (SCBA, by its Spanish acronym) are cited in this report, but in each one of the provincial superior courts, similar provisions have been dictated. These provisions can be divided into three groups.
A first group was conformed by provisions that established:
- exceptional leaves of absence for judges, public officials, and employees who had returned to the country from areas with high rates of spread and transmission of COVID-19 (CSJN Agreement 3/2020 – SCBA Resolution 271/2020);
- authorization of extraordinary judicial vacations (CSJN Agreement 9/2020 – SCBA Resolution 386/2020);
- minimum shifts for attention to urgent matters (CSJN Agreement 4/2020 – SCBA Resolution 386/2020).
A second group of provisions were addressed to:
- the implementation of working from home in the justice field (CSJN Agreement 6/2020 – SCBA Presidency Resolution 18/2020);
- the use of the electronic signature (CSJN Agreement 11/2020 y 12/2020 – SCBA Agreement 3971/2020);
- the electronic and digital form for judicial and administrative acts (CSJN Agreement 11/2020 – SCBA Agreement 3971/2020);
- the adoption of virtual ministerial agreements (CSJN Agreement 11/2020 – SCBA Agreement 3971/2020).
And, in a third group, the provisions were addressed to protocolize and regulate procedures such as:
- the remote filing of certain legal documents, and the admission of digital documents with electronic signature (CSJN Agreement 11/2020 – SCBA Presidency Resolution 15/2020);
- the rules of procedure for legal documents, resolutions, judicial proceedings, and court files (CSJN Agreement 15/2020 – SCBA Agreement 3975/2020);
- the procedure for reception and filing certain legal documents (CSJN Agreement 12/2020 Annex – SCBA Presidency Resolution 15/2020).
Nowadays, the common urban area conformed by the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, and the 40 municipalities of the province of Buenos Aires (AMBA, by its Spanish acronym) maintain the restrictions framed on the ASPO measure for a considerable amount of time.
Since July, the Supreme Court of Justice ordained the lifting of the suspension of activities in the different instances and jurisdictions within its competence (CSJN Agreement 27/2020, 30/2020 and 31/2020). Through its SCBA Resolution 1250/2020, the Supreme Court of the province of Buenos Aires ordained similar measures related to reopening starting on November.
The extent of the state of emergency situation requires to maintain and to deepen a set of measures that regulates procedures and technological tools to be applied in the provision of judicial services. The so-called “e-justice”, which was timidly talked about before COVID-19, has been pushed forward exponentially due to the pandemic.