Letter from Serbia

These days there are many more Serbian lawyers in the street than in court.

These days there are many more Serbian lawyers in the street than in court.

[Editor’s Note: Serbian criminal defense lawyer Zach Kuvizić writes about recent legislation in his country, essentially granting notaries the right to practice law without a license. Kuvizić, and virtually all his colleagues, regard the law as an assault upon the Serbian Constitution, and have been on strike for two months, with devastating consequences for criminal defendants left without representation. Inmates are stuck in jail, hundreds of trials are postponed, more than 100,000 court hearings canceled.]

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to inform you about Serbian Bar Association struggle aimed at preservation of the profession in Serbia and human dignity of its members. The Association was founded on February 28, 1862 and shared the destiny of Serbian people ever since by honorably serving their legal needs throughout good and hard times equally. Unfortunately, these days the survival of the whole profession in Serbia is in jeopardy. The protest goes on, the justice system is at the standstill because the Bar members do not attend court and other proceedings. As a result, our clients and families suffer, along with people who have been arrested during the last six weeks but did not receive advice from a qualified defense lawyers in order to protect their constitutional rights.

Members of the Serbian Bar Association, including local associations, started protests against the unconstitutional Law on Notary Public which came into effect on September 1st 2014, granting the EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO NOTARIES to draft and execute legally binding contracts/agreements and notary deeds in the areas of real estate sales, proprietary interest between spouses and domestic partners, child and spousal support and number of other matters concerning proprietary rights dispositions during lifetime and mortis causa. The powers given to Serbian notaries are unheard and represent a direct attack on our professional integrity and survival because a tremendous part of the legal work traditionally performed by advocates (attorney, solicitor, barrister, Rechtsanwalt, abogado, avvocato, advokat, avocat, δικηγόρος, advocaat or whatever the name is of this noble profession that we do) has been given to a handful carefully chosen individuals with a Fee Schedule that is 10 times or more higher then what the Bar members’ fees have ever been.

The Serbian Bar Association filed a Constitutional Appeal with the Constitutional Court of Serbia, alleging that the legal framework for notaries is unconstitutional, since many laws and regulations in force in Serbia do not coincide with the new Notary law hastily promulgated through the Serbian Parliament. The court has not yet decided the case. We (and I mean everyone out of 8500 attorneys and law clerks in Serbia) hope for the outcome that will declare the whole affair with notaries unconstitutional and order that the Notary Law is made compliant with the Constitution and other laws of the country. Meanwhile, the president of the Serbian Bar met with the Minister of Justice twice. These meetings did not produce a productive dialog, since the Ministry did not show any honest interest in settling the issue.

YOU AND YOUR ASSOCIATION CAN HELP! Please contact your national Justice Ministry and ask that the inquiry is made with the Serbian Ministry of Justice about the Serbian Bar Protest. You can, also, contact your EU representatives who can, as well, contact the EU office in Serbia and seek information about our protest. You can, and we hope you will, forward this message to your colleagues and friends and ask them to show support for our rightful demands. In doing so, please send a copy to the Serbian Ministry of Justice at kontakt@mpravde.gov.rs so that they know that we are not alone.

We hope to hear from you.

Please visit here for more information.

About Zeljko (Zach) Kuvizić, advokat from Novi Sad, Serbia


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