Bar Association Criticizes State Legal Aid System (1)

Toomas Vaher, head of the Bar Association Photo: Scanpix/Postimees
4/13/2012 1:03 PM
Category: Society

The head of the nation's Bar Association, Toomas Vaher, has blasted the state's legal aid system as being unfair to lawyers, since the government doles out an annual sum without specifying how many work hours it is meant to cover.

Speaking at a general meeting of the association in Tartu today, Vaher likened the setup, whereby the state's contract with the Bar quantifies the payment but not the work, to a case of poor government procurement, ERR radio reported.

Under Estonia's legal system, those who need to turn to the court in a civil suit typically have to shell out at least 100 euros an hour for legal assistance. In most cases the rate is several times higher, reported

The court often rules that the loser in the case has to cover the winning side's legal costs, but such rulings are not guaranteed and the plaintiffs, even when in the right, sometimes end up paying large sums out-of-pocket.

State legal aid, given when the court decides a party is too poor to cover the costs, is the one exception.

Minister of Justice Kristen Michal said that the state pays about 3.8 million every year in legal assistance and that his ministry was satisfied with the service it was getting for the money.

Estonia's court system has often been criticized for being far too costly for the average person. In December, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Märt Rask said that pursuing the right to legal representation in an Estonian court is more expensive and more complicated than anywhere else in Europe.


Steve Roman

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