Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has stated that the Romanian state has paid more than EUR 88 million in fees for publicly-appointed lawyers in the last 10 years, pointing out that their demands are normal. The minister has added that a new protocol will not contain the phrase that allows the judge to modify the fee.
“When I’m no longer minister, I will resume my activity as lawyer, an activity I exercised for 15 years, and from which I’m currently suspended, since 2006. (…) If I were to do as lawyers do and start off with the conclusions and then mention the arguments, I would start by saying that I agree with what you are demanding, these are normal things, natural things. The legal practice must fall in line with social and even financial developments, because they have brought us here together. If I were to evoke this protocol regarding the fees… it was authored in 2008, updated in 2015. In 2015, after 7 years, after a crisis that had ended, it was updated by 30 percent,” Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated.
The statements were made at the parliamentary committee for investigating abuses and fighting corruption, where the method and mechanism used to establish the level of legal assistance fees were discussed.
At the same time, the Justice Minister emphasised that he agrees with the updating of publicly-appointed lawyers, however he once again reminded that he has asked for a substantiation of the demands.
“Since becoming minister, I have taken note of this demarche, (…) I have had several meetings in which the updating of the fees was proposed to us, something I agree with. Nevertheless, the money comes from the budget. I have asked for a minimum substantiation. (…) I don’t find it normal for the judge to censor the public fee, which is low as it is. The phrase is not to the advantage of the profession. (…) Considering that it is already low, I find it abnormal for the fee to be lowered by the judge. In a new protocol we should eliminate that phrase that allows the judge to tinker with the level of the fee,” Tudorel Toader added.
According to the minister, from 2008 to 2018 the Romanian state has paid more than EUR 88 million for publicly-appointed lawyers.
“Free legal assistance is on a downward trend – 0.18, 0.15, 0.13 percent share in legal services. I don’t have an explanation. This morning (Tuesday morning – editor’s note) I have invited the President to the Justice Ministry, we also expect the Public Ministry, in order to discuss them, adjust them, and finalise them on the coordinates I referred to,” Toader added.
On Monday, several lawyers protested on the steps of the Bucharest Court of Appeals, complaining that the fees were established in 2015, as part of a protocol, but living costs are much higher in 2019, giving the example of magistrates, whose salaries have been hiked.