UBA Open Appeal on the Proposal to Abolish Lawyers' Exclusive Right of Audience

2019-09-02

KYIV - September 02, 2019. The Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) as a leading legal community with purpose to implement the rule of law and develop the legal profession, expresses its concern over the possibility of abolishing the exclusive right of audience as provided for in the Draft Law on Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (on the abolition of lawyers' monopoly) (Reg. No. 1013).

The amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in 2016 in order to consolidate the exclusive right of lawyers to represent their clients in courts aimed at ensuring the right of citizens to obtain quality legal aid, to promote the principle of competitiveness in the judicial process and to ensure the legal capacity of the lawyer. The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) supported the draft.

The above right is consistent with the international practice of the leading countries and promotes the formation of a legal profession with uniform standards and ethical rules. In addition, the lawyer's exclusive right of audience is a guarantee of genuine professional legal protection.

The abolition of this rule will throw back the legal profession decades ago and offset the achievements in the development of the legal system acquired during the years of Independence of Ukraine.

We are convinced that there is no need to amend the Constitution to ensure a proper right of defence. The guarantees of legal aid availability could be regulated by improving the provisions of the Law “On the Bar and Practice of Law” in terms of securing the status of a lawyer, the terms of admission to the profession and pursuing a professional activity by lawyers - representatives of public authorities and legal counsels. Presently the system of free legal aid provides quality legal assistance to socially vulnerable groups of the population.

At the same time, the Association notes significant problems in the functioning of the Bar. However, these deficiencies should not be remedied by neglecting the status of a lawyer as a defender of human rights and interests in the judicial process and in the law enforcement system.

These problems could be eliminated by amending the basic Law "On the Bar and Practice of Law", establishing modern transparent mechanisms for admission to the profession and internships, as well as forming self-governing bodies, introducing effective disciplinary mechanisms, and reporting to these bodies. This is the point the UBA has repeatedly emphasized in its appeals, in the course of numerous discussions about the future of the legal profession, and has specific proposals for improving the functioning of the Bar.

We would like to emphasize that the extension of the rights of lawyers, following the introduction of the exclusive right of audience, shall correspond to the increase of their responsibility before clients and the state for abuse of their rights.

Therefore, we call on the people's deputies of Ukraine to reject the draft law "On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (on the abolition of lawyers' monopoly)" (Reg. No. 1013).

At the same time, we appeal to the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy and the Legal Reform Commission under the President of Ukraine with a proposal to start a broad discussion of the ways to resolve the idea proposed in the draft law. The Ukrainian Bar Association is ready to serve as a platform for such discussions and to share insights elaborated by the UBA members on improving the Bar and the legal profession.

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