Reform Party politicians have complaints about Jõks' career as lawyer

IRL and Free Party presidential candidate Allar Jõks. (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)
By Maria-Ann Rohemäe
8/16/2016 12:30 PM
Category: News

Some Reform Party politicians find that presidential candidate Allar Jõks' work done as a sworn advocate has not always been ethical. Both Andrus Ansip and Jürgen Ligi have cited his representation of energy firm Eesti Gaas and rolling stock manufacturer Stadler, who did not win the procurement tender for Tallinn's new trams, in cases against the Estonian state. In Jõks' opinion, however, a lawyer should not be equated with his clients, and these statements are just a part of electoral competition.

In Monday's edition of Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht, Reform Party member Jürgen Ligi highlighted Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) and Free Party presidential candidate Allar Jõks' involvement as a lawyer in Eesti Gaas' dispute over the expropriation of gas networks. A minority shareholder in Eesti Gaas at the time was Russian energy firm Gazprom, which in Ligi's opinion Jõks was representing, reported ETV's nightly news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

"I have not represented Gazprom's interests in a single dispute; I have represented Eesti Gaas' interests," commented Jõks himself. "Eesti Gaas is a legal enterprise. As far as I know it has not been declared a criminal enterprise, and representation of Eesti Gaas went well."

Jurist and Reform Party Parliamentary Group member Igor Gräzin likewise criticized his partymate's accusations.

"In this case [my] friend Ligi doen't understand very well what the occupation of lawyer is," said Gräzin. "Surely a murderer's defender is not himself a murderer, and surely Aivar Pilv himself was not doping when [cross-country skier Andrus] Veerpalu was. The defender of people, institutions, citizens is a lawyer, who does so professionally, who is paid to do so; this isn't charity, but rather an extremely vital state function."

According to former Prime Minister and one-time Reform Party chairman Andrus Ansip, anyone can go to court against the Estonian state, but in Jõks' case the issue is a lack of ethics.

Ansip's position is tied to the procurement of trams in Tallinn. Jõks represented Swiss rolling stock manufacturer Stadler Bussnang, which took the procurement to court. The firm's appeal was dismissed by Estonia's Supreme Court.

In Ansip's opinion, even a victory would not have been remotely beneficial to Stadler. Namely, the execution deadline of the Kyoto emissions reduction purchase agreement was drawing close, and thus Ansip found that the arrangement of a new procurement would have been impossible and Tallinn would have missed out on getting its new trams.

 "I don't want a president who is willing to fight against the interests of the Estonian state for money; whose only goal is to damage Estonian state interests in a lawsuit," said Ansip.

Jõks said in response, however, that he would not want to live "...in a state where the prime minister or a former prime minister dictates which court cases he considers promising as well as in which things one can go against the Estonian state things and in which he can't."

The current presidential candidate's law firm also rceived attention regarding the development and zoning plan for Tallinn Kalaranna.

Jõks represented developer Pro Kaital, which submitted a court action to Telliskivi Association member Teele Pehk, who repeatedly spoke publicly about development and zoning plan-related bottlenecks. Pro Kapital had demanded the refutation of these allegations, however later came to an agreement with Pehk. This has been referred to as the first "LÄTAK" incident — an acronym for legaalne ähvardamine takistamaks avalikkuse kaasamist, or "legal intimidation to prevent public participation" in English.

In Jõks' opinion, he has not acted unlawfully or unethically in a single court case and has not yet regretted representing anyone. Similarly, in Jõks' opinion, lawyers and clients should not be equated.

Jurist: Ethics is an evolving phenomenon

Protecting the clients' interests is more important to a lawyer than his own, however at the same time, a lawyer may not go against the professional standards or the Code of Conduct of the Estonia Bar Asocation, which establishes that jurists must remain dignified when communicating with the public, Tanel Kerkimäe, director of the Tallinn University of Technology (TTÜ) Tallinn Law School, told "Aktuaalne kaamera."

"The issue of a jurist's ethics creates headaches for many; philosophers, scientists, jurists have themselves spoken a great deal about it, both with regards to judges and lawyers in their own right," said Kerikmäe. "There are perhaps different attitudes in Europe and the US. In the US, this is is taken very, very seriously, but our Code of Ethics is ten times shorter than in the US, wherein all possible forms of client-lawyyer relationships are represented. I would also say that ethics is an evolving phenomenon."

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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