Current and former lawyers accuse the government of politically targeting lawyers

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The current president of the Portuguese Bar Association has surrounded herself with her predecessors to demonstrate the unity of the class against the proposed revision of the Bar Association (OA) statutes, which they see as a political attack with unexplained motives.

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro was joined today at a press conference at the OA headquarters in Lisbon by former OA members António Marinho e Pinto and Guilherme Figueiredo, as well as by written statements from Elina Fraga and Rogério Alves, who were unable to attend, but who all agreed “to repudiate” the government’s proposal to revise the statutes which, she said, the Ministry of Justice “refuses to take off the table”.

Among the points the lawyers refuse to accept is the opening up of acts specific to the profession to non-lawyers, which they see as jeopardizing the legal security of citizens, such as the issue of legal advice, which can now be practiced by non-lawyers.

Pinheiro, who met earlier in the afternoon with the Minister of Justice to discuss the revision of the statutes – in a meeting “that went badly” and during which the Minister wanted to give the impression that Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro and her General Council “hadn’t understood” what the law was – criticized the fact that one of the arguments used to legitimize the illicit prosecution service was that it existed.

“We’ve been living for too long with illicit prosecutions running rampant across the country, and they’re not effectively combating them. It’s a shame, because if they fought them effectively, they wouldn’t have to say they were legalizing something that has always happened, as if that were an excuse for us to give up fighting an activity that is illicit. Bad legal advice seriously harms citizens and can have very serious consequences”, criticized Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro.

While the President criticized the government’s “political options” in this area, former President Marinho e Pinto did not hesitate to assert that they “obey hidden interests” and that the executive must explain to the Portuguese people a legislative change that takes away their protection and intends to “transform Portuguese society into a law of the jungle”, where the law of the strongest prevails.

“The government, instead of seeking to improve the services that fall within its remit, is scandalizing the liberal professions, giving in to a wave of liberalization incompatible with the social-democratic model (…) The PS is transforming itself into a neoliberal party with no ethical guidelines”, accused the former bâtonnier, who said that the party and the government must justify the measures and explain who benefits from them and what the advantages are for citizens.

In the same vein, Guilherme Figueiredo accused the PS and the government of wanting to “appropriate the political supervision of professional associations” and declared that “all the supervisory bodies” are the responsibility of the same party, the PS, “which is serious”.

Marinho e Pinto also wanted to leave “a note against the cynicism of saying that we decriminalize [unlawful prosecution] because it’s always been done”, issuing an ironic challenge: “Decriminalize domestic violence, then”.

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro again criticized the fact that the government’s proposal was presented late on Wednesday, with a response time of 48 working hours, given the intervening public holidays, and said that nothing justifies “the haste” with which the government wants to conclude the statute revision process, not even the Recovery and Resilience Program (PRR), which only required the regulation of multidisciplinary societies, “and it’s done”.

In the event of disagreement with the government, the lawyers will continue with the protests and forms of struggle approved at the extraordinary general meeting earlier this month, as well as complaints to European bodies.

The statutes of the professional associations are currently being revised following the amendment of the law governing these institutions, some of which have already demonstrated against the changes, including OA, which has already declared its readiness to fight and use “all means at its disposal”, namely “the stoppage of justice”, to protest against the government’s proposal, which it considers a violation of the principles of the rule of law.

Lawyers to use “all available means” against government proposal

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