November 22, 2022

RECOMMENDATIONS Free access to justice for vulnerable groups in a democratic judicial system

In November, ACTEDO and the Center for Legal Resources (CRJ) launched a study on access to justice for vulnerable groups, which identifies a series of legislative gaps in the field and proposes concrete measures, including legislative changes, to improve access to justice. The study is designed for lawyers, magistrates and other legal professionals, as well as legislators and decision makers. The authors of the study are Att. Dan Chertes, Cluj Bar and Georgiana Iorgulescu, Executive Director of the Legal Resources Center (CRJ), with contributions from Alexandra Columban, ACTEDO's Executive Director. This research is part of the project INTEGRIS: Integrated Support for Human Rights, coordinated by the Action Center for Equality and Human Rights (ACTEDO), in partnership with the Center for Legal Resources (CRJ), implemented with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through EEA Grants 2014-2021.

The RECOMMENDATIONS included in the study are:

I. Public legal aid (in Romanian, ajutor public judiciar)

  1. Re-analyzing the institution of legal aid through the lens of defining principles, such as:

a) the cost-benefit analysis of the provision of this legal aid, which should balance other aspects, not just the direct budgetary effort; thus, the social and economic benefits of providing this service must be estimated from the perspective of the costs of not providing them;

b) fair payment of the services offered through this aid relative to their reasonable quality;

c) legal aid to cover, after the admission of such a request, all the costs of the litigation in which it was admitted;

d) the eligibility criteria for granting the legal aid, in addition to that of the material situation, should concern: i) the vulnerability of the litigant, including that revealed by the lack of education, ii) the interests of justice, which relate to the relevance of the case, both for the individual and for society and iii) the complexity of the legal issue; in this context, the exclusion of the criterion of the financial situation for accessing legal aid can be considered, in the case of vulnerable groups that will be listed exhaustively;

e) Guaranteeing the litigant's general access to initial legal advice, when there are no other reasonable sources for them to access such advice.

  1. The involvement of the UNBR and the bar associations in informing litigants about their rights regarding legal aid.

UNBR and the bar associations should inform, according to a unitary methodology, through their websites, in a way that is as accessible as possible to litigants, about the conditions for accessing legal aid, the necessary documents, as well as by making available some form models necessary for requesting help.

  1. The creation by the national appeal courts of an annual statistic at the level of their constituencies, publicly accessible statistics on the website of the Ministry of Justice, regarding the accessibility of legal aid and which include at least: the total number of cases in which public judicial aid was requested in relation to the total number of cases before the courts; of these, the total number of applications admitted and rejected; and, among those admitted, the facility that was granted (exemption/scaling of the judicial stamp duty, payment of the attorney's fee, etc., as provided by art. 6 of GEO no. 51/2008).
  1. The creation by the Ministry of Justice of a national statistic according to the same criteria, by aggregating the information transmitted from the territory.

II. Access to justice for victims of domestic violence

1. The inclusion in criminal legislation of all forms of domestic violence; this fact would show that Romania understands in a real, contemporary way, all the actions or inactions that can lead to forms of domestic violence, beyond the classic ones of physical violence.

2. Informing victims of domestic violence about their rights in an effective manner; for this, each authority/institution that comes into contact with them must provide, concretely, in a unique typed form, information on who, where and under what circumstances offers legal advice, free legal assistance or other types of services provided by law.

3. The text must be detailed with regard to the persons/institutions that provide legal advice: either the legal framework regarding the profession of legal adviser is changed or the advice is provided through lawyers.

4. Art. 7 of Law no. 217/2003 must be clarified in the sense of specifying the difference between the right to legal assistance, respectively the institutions provided for in paragraph 2 letter c) and the free legal assistance provided for in paragraph 2 letter d) from the same article.

III. Access to justice for crime victims

1. Clarifying, in concrete terms, the meaning of the phrase legal assistance as well as specifying the institution/institutions that provide this type of assistance.

2. Consistent information, based on pre-established forms at the national level, for the victims of crimes regarding all the rights provided for in art. 4 of Law no. 211/2004 as well as the specific steps that must be taken to access these rights.

3. Accessing the panel of judges within the tribunal for the award of financial compensation is a desirable one that is difficult to achieve without an elected lawyer, so it is necessary to extend free legal aid to this stage as well.

IV. Pro bono lawyering

1. The adoption of clear rules, preferably at the level of primary legislation, which enshrine the lawyer's right to provide pro bono legal assistance to people in vulnerable groups, either individually or when the connection between them is facilitated by the non-governmental associations that assist such groups.

2. Involvement of UNBR and the Bar Associations in encouraging pro bono lawyering, through the creation, on a permanent basis, of Pro Bono Assistance Centers, which will operate on a voluntary basis, both for lawyers and law students, in university centers.

3. Involvement of UNBR and Bar Associations in establishing partnerships with NGOs that aim to assist vulnerable groups, so that the needs of these groups are known by Bar Associations, and organizations are aware that Bar Associations have established assistance centers.

4. The involvement of UNBR and the bar associations in the organization of events with the theme of pro bono legal assistance, such as: the European pro bono week, the day of free legal advice, the annual pro bono awards, etc.

5. The individual involvement of attorneys and law firms with a medium and large number of lawyers, in the realization of their own programs in which they provide pro bono legal advice.


The activity is part of the project INTEGRIS: Integrated Support for Human Rights, developed by the Equality and Human Rights Action Centre (ACTEDO), in partnership with the Centre for Legal Resources (CLR), with financial support from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021.

Working together for an inclusive Europe.

Website-ul ACTEDO a fost actualizat în cadrul proiectului INTEGRIS: Sprijin integrat pentru drepturile omului, derulat de Centrul de Acțiune pentru Egalitate și Drepturile Omului (ACTEDO), în parteneriat cu Centrul de Resurse Juridice (CRJ), proiect care beneficiază de o finanțare în valoare de 197.716,41 euro prin programul Active Citizens Fund România, finanțat de Islanda, Liechtenstein și Norvegia prin Granturile SEE 2014-2021. Conținutul acestui website nu reprezintă în mod necesar poziția oficială a Granturilor SEE și Norvegiene 2014-2021. Pentru mai multe informații accesați Informații despre Active Citizens Fund România sunt disponibile la

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