Bar Association considers absence of Justice Ministry from congress a “disrespect”

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The president of the Portuguese Bar Association (OA) considered the absence of the Ministry of Justice at the closing session of the congress, which took place over three days in Fátima, in the district of Santarém, a “disrespect”.

“We are very sorry that the Ministry of Justice was not present here, which always gives us this idea that it is dialoguing and that it wants to dialogue with the OA. Once again, it has shown that this is not the case and that is why we made a point of marking with an empty seat the invitation that was declined in such a disrespectful way “, said Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro to the Lusa agency, at the end of the closing session of the 9th congress of lawyers.

She added that the “Ministry of Justice itself has even suggested sending an advisor to this congress to be represented”.

“The OA does not accept this disrespect and, as can be seen here, we are all united, nationally, but also internationally”, he stressed.

She hopes that the “Government and the Minister of Justice are, in fact, available to do this work” with lawyers.

“This is not the way to do it. Surely, you have your back turned to the OA. This institution has 97 years of existence and deserves all the respect of the country for all that it has done and continues to do for democracy, the democratic rule of law and justice in the country”, he insisted.

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro also said that “no justification was given” for this absence.

“It was just a matter of lack of agenda. We have an agenda for everything, except to fulfill what it should be, which is to talk to the legal profession, which is an essential pillar of the democratic rule of law,” he added.

In her closing speech, she said that the Minister of Justice and her two Secretaries of State were invited, but “all declined” the invitation, “perhaps because they do not have the courage to face the legal profession eye to eye and come to explain why they want to take away from citizens who give them the work and service of justice, which is the lawyer of this country”.

For three days, the lawyers met in Fatima to discuss the problems of the class and justice and to “contribute to solving them”, said the president, adding that 256 proposals were presented, almost all of them approved.

Among the priorities is “citizens’ access to law and their fundamental rights”.

“We will continue to fight to reverse this absolutely unacceptable situation which is to set up the hypothesis that these citizens can be assisted by people who do not have the necessary technical or legal preparation to be able to enforce their constitutional rights in a true access to justice,” he said.

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro said the congress ended “with the notion of duty done”.

The president of the OA’s Supervisory Board, Pedro Madeira de Brito, said that “there are challenges, threats, opportunities and very delicate issues at the moment, which have made this congress a very important congress for the profession”.

Pedro Madeira de Brito said that the governance model was also reflected and there is “a modernization challenge” that involves renewing the institutions.

“This congress was very representative of the concern about legislative changes,” he said, considering that four pillars are at risk: the role of the lawyer in justice, the “admissibility of multidisciplinary companies, with non-lawyer partners, collaborators, managers and administrators, the change in the mechanisms for protecting the profession and the system or functioning of the social security system for lawyers”.

Pedro Madeira de Brito also highlighted “one of the great challenges” for the future, which “is the application of new technologies to the practice of law”.

“The exponential development of artificial intelligence is a key challenge for our profession. We must be aware of the possibility of replacing lawyers in the practice of their own acts through these tools. And this leads me to ask what is the role of the lawyer in this context? How to ensure justice in this context and leave the question whether justice can be done on the basis of algorithms”, he said.

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