Freedom of Movement for Advocates Should Be Ensured
The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation asks the heads of regions of the Russian Federation to create conditions for advocates to provide professional legal aid to citizens in the situation when restrictive measures are applied aimed at fighting the pandemic
On April 6, the Ministry of Justice of Russia sent a letter from Konstantin Chuychenko, the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, to the high-level regional officials containing a request to establish the freedom of movement of advocates and notaries for providing professional legal aid under conditions of limitation of movement for citizens. It is understood that certificates of advocates or notaries should be presented and the rules established by the regional bars and notarial chambers should be complied with. Mikhail Tolcheev, the Vice President of the Russian Federal Bar Association (RFBA), commented the letter and emphasized the role of the bar as a systemically important institution in the law enforcement process and the process of administering justice. He noted that any investigative or other procedural actions in criminal and administrative proceedings are not possible without ensuring the constitutional right to receive professional legal aid.
The Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation notes in particular that the extension to advocates and notaries of restrictive measures established to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus infection may lead to a violation of constitutional guarantees due to reduced availability and timeliness of receiving professional legal aid, including potential violation of the deadlines for procedural actions.
The letter also contains references to the appeals of the RFBA and the Federal Notarial Chamber (FNP) to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, expressing concern of professional communities in the current situation. Alongside this, the RFBA and the FNP are taking significant measures to ensure maximum availability of notarial and legal services.
Mikhail Tolcheev also noted that in most regions of the country where such restrictive measures have been taken bars are mentioned among organizations whose members are entitled to move to carry out professional duties. Control measures for the proper use of this right have been agreed with the bars in the Republic of Tatarstan, the Ryazan region, the Chuvash Republic, and other regions.
On April 2, 2020, the RFBA Council adopted a statement in which it was noted that the rights to life and health care as well as the right to receive professional legal aid are fundamental and unalienable constitutional human rights that cannot be restricted, including in public emergency. Therefore, it is useful to ensure a possibility for working advocates to strike a balance between such constitutional guarantees.
In this regard, Mikhail Tolcheev also mentioned international experience in particular the address of Ulrich Wessels, President of the German Federal Bar, to Angela Merkel, the Federal Chancellor, declaring the need to urgently recognize legal profession as a systemically significant profession. “Only in this way in a crisis situation can the legal profession when it is especially needed remain capable and provide access to justice,” Ulrich Wessels said.
According to Mikhail Tolcheev, the decision to recognize the legal profession as a systemically significant one provides grounds for state support measures for advocates working during a pandemic.
He says that the RFBA declared the need to extend support measures for small businesses to lawyers and provide other assistance to them. This initiative also found support from the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and the relevant proposals have already been submitted to the Government.