Nothing wicked in seeking counsel from law firm, says President's Office

President Kersti Kaljulaid flanked by her public relations adviser Taavi Linnamäe.
President Kersti Kaljulaid flanked by her public relations adviser Taavi Linnamäe. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Office of the President finds that there is nothing wicked about President Kersti Kaljulaid having sought legal counsel from a law firm in connection with a Supreme Court case, as in today's nuanced legal matters, it is often the case that just a few select individuals are the most knowledgeable in a given field.

In a written response to ERR sent at 9:34 p.m. on Wednesday, Public Relations Adviser to the President Taavi Linnamäe said that he agreed with former chief justice Rait Maruste, who found that outside expertise may be consulted if necessary. ERR's Estonian-language news portal specified that Maruste had in fact specifically noted that outside counsel may be used in exceptional cases, but should not be the norm.

"The goal of the Office of the President's work is to ensure sufficient and necessary support for the work of the head of state," Linnamäe said. "The Office of the President's legal services are competent. [Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Department] Mall Gramberg is among the most experienced and renowned experts in the field of constitutional law who also has decades of experience at the Office of the President."

He noted that in today's extremely nuanced legal matters, it is often the case that just a few select individuals in the country are the biggest experts in a given field.

"This is also the reason why state agencies occasionally still seek expert assessments and analyses from the private sector," Linnamäe said. "There is nothing wicked about this."

An appeal to the Supreme Court of Estonia and other important documents are drawn up by the head of state with the help of the Office of the President, the adviser said, noting that both input from office officials as well as consultations with other experts, if necessary, are taken into account. "As was the case this time," he added.

He declined to answer, however, when asked who exactly would be representing the president in the Supreme Court.

Year without a legal adviser

ERR reported on Wednesday that the Office of the President commissioned a legal analysis of the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, amendments to which President Kersti Kaljulaid rejected earlier this year, from the law firm Sorainen in order to take the legislation to the Supreme Court.

"The Office of the President is our client," Sorainen Senior Associate Illimar Pärnamägi told ERR, adding that the law firm could also represent the president in court.

Proclaiming or rejecting legislation passed by the Riigikogu is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the president and involves no other Constitutional institution. The president also has the right to veto legislation by not proclaiming it and instead sending it back to the Riigikogu anew.Commenting on the use by the president of the services of a law firm, former Supreme Court chie justice Rait Maruste told ERR on Wednesday that in exceptional cases, the president may seek counsel from outside of the Office of the President, but generally speaking, that is not the way things should work.

The Office of the President has lacked a legal adviser since last fall. Public Relations Adviser to the President Taavi Linnamäe told ERR earlier this month that there is no need for one, as the president has the necessary legal competencies.

Maruste, however, believes that the Office of the President should possess a certain degree of constitutional continuity. "Presidents come and go, but some people in this apparatus should be well versed in constitutional practices, rights and freedoms, international agreements, etc.," he said.

"This is a function which, based on the Constitution, must be fulfilled," the former chief justice continued. "The president has advisers on climate affairs and other affairs — she can have those. But she must have a legal adviser, as it is the president's constitutional duty to review the constitutionality and consistency with other laws of legislation that has been passed but not yet entered into force."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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