Lawyers to use “all available means” against government proposal

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The Portuguese Bar Association announced today that it would fight and use “all available means”, namely “stopping justice”, to protest against the government’s proposal to amend the statutes, which it considers a violation of the principles of the rule of law.

“All the means at our disposal will be used by the Portuguese Bar Association (OA) and we will stop justice if necessary”, said Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro, asserting that they will demonstrate against “anything that violates respect for people’s rights, freedoms and guarantees”.

On Tuesday, more than 2,200 lawyers, meeting in an extraordinary general assembly, mandated OA and the President of the Bar to adopt measures and “stop justice” if the government’s proposal to modify the statutes does not respect the principles of the profession.

The proposal to amend the statutes of the Bar Association, as well as the statutes of the other associations, reached OA at around 11pm on Wednesday, with a deadline for response of 48 working hours, i.e. until June 13, a public holiday in Lisbon (the city where OA’s headquarters and the Ministry of Justice are located).

According to OA, the Ministry of Justice’s proposal allows public bodies, namely municipalities, parish councils, associations, non-governmental organizations, civil servants, companies and non-law graduates, to provide legal advice on all matters, without any supervision by an external entity.

After receiving the proposal from the Ministry of Justice, OA declares that it “will react and fight, using all the means at its disposal, according to the terms of the deliberations approved at the General Assembly, and once again calls on the legal profession to join in this fight to defend the democratic rule of law, the rights, freedoms and guarantees of individuals, as well as the dignity of the profession”.

Lawyers to use "all available means" against government proposal

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro deemed this proposal “unacceptable”, as it aims to distance citizens from justice, and OA “can never tolerate such a situation”.

The President of the Republic criticized the delay in which the Ministry of Justice sent the proposal, saying it showed “a total lack of respect for the institution and for the Portuguese legal profession”.

“They took advantage of the traditional moment of rest in Lisbon to propose something of this dimension to all the professional orders”, he said, adding that the document “reflects everything that OA said were the red lines”.

Fernanda de Almeida Pinheiro stressed that the proposal “is unspeakable and clearly demonstrates that the Ministry of Justice has not listened to OA and does not care about citizens’ rights, freedoms and guarantees” by wanting “to classify them as second-class citizens who will receive legal advice from everyone but lawyers”.

According to OA, the Ministry of Justice’s proposal allows public bodies – municipalities, parish councils, associations, non-governmental organizations, civil servants, companies and non-law graduates – to provide legal advice on all matters, without any supervision by an external entity.

“They will give illegal legal advice to citizens. From now on, the poorest citizens will have at their disposal a set of services provided by people who are neither regulated nor supervised by anyone outside,” he said, stressing that MJ wants to “move citizens away from justice and towards alternative means of dispute resolution”.

She also said that “it’s not just legal advice that’s at stake”, but also “contracts of promise, purchase and sale which will now be freely entered into by real estate companies and citizens who are not lawyers”.

According to OA, contracts, negotiation and credit collection will remain in the hands of any entity or company, once again without any external control, and the “crime of illegal power of attorney” will cease to exist in its current form, which will be limited solely to the forensic mandate.

“This is a disgrace. The Ministry of Justice, instead of worrying about giving resources to the courts, the public prosecutor’s office, civil servants, the criminal investigation and the investigation into the money laundering and anti-corruption law, is preoccupied with the threat of the OA,” he lamented.

The statutes of professional associations are currently being revised following the amendment of the law governing these institutions.

Portugal is the 5th EU country with the longest duration of legal proceedings

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