Bar Association Aruba wants higher pay for pro Deo cases

POSTED: 08/23/11 12:23 PM

St. Maarten – In June attorney mr. Geert Hatzmann criticized the local legal community for its refusal to handle pro Deo cases. “This is a disgrace. Attorneys are making a lot of money and nobody wants to do pro Deo work,” he said at the time. But now the attorneys who stay away from doing unpaid work have some support from the dean of the Bar Association in Aruba, Rudi Oomen. “The compensation for pro Deo cases is not of this time anymore,” he said last week during the installation of Judge Ton van de Leur.
Oomen had a few other complaints as well: the government ought to support citizens financially in administrative court cases, he said. And citizens must be able to call upon the services of an attorney between the moment they are arrested and the moment they are detained.
Oomen focused on citizens with limited financial means at their disposal. They are depending on the government for legal assistance. According to the Bar Association it appears increasingly that the most vulnerable citizens in the society are unable to get justice in a reasonable way. This is due to the fact that the costs for going to court have gone up considerably. Filing a lawsuit costs more and more money. “This is possibly so,” Oomen said, “to prevent that people go for every little dispute to court.”
All this has negative consequences for citizens who don’t have a lot of money. They are able to call upon the services of a pro Deo attorney for criminal and civil cases at the government’s expense, but the compensation attorneys receive for these services has not been adjusted for years, Oomen said. Since 1997, pro Deo lawyers receive 900 florin ($500) for criminal cases and 600 florin ($335) for civil cases.
The Bar Association says that these amounts do not cover the costs attorneys incur to prepare a case properly. “They have to take more citizens as clients to be able to cover their costs. That is a serious threat to the quality of legal protection,” Oomen said.
The Bar Association says that the compensation for pro Deo cases must be increased in a hurry. The Bar also wants compensation for citizens who file an administrative lawsuit against the government. Oomen said that the government does not make pro Deo attorneys available for administrative lawsuits.
The Bar Association finds this unacceptable: “The government in a constitutional state has to make sure that everyone is able to find justice. Better even, the constitutional state is there to limit the power of the government.”
For this reason, Oomen said, the government has to support citizens to get justice instead of applying the law of the jungle.
Oomen also addressed another problem: citizens’ rights to an attorney from the moment they are arrested. In Aruba citizens still do not have that right and they can be interrogated by the police until they are taken into custody outside the presence of an attorney.
Oomen referred to the Salduz-arrest of the European Human Rights court that grants suspects the right to an attorney immediately after their arrest. “It is a crucial stage of detention, wherein interrogations already take place,” Oomen said. “It is very important that the suspect is able to consult an attorney, also if he is unable to pay for it.”

Did you like this? Share it:
Bar Association Aruba wants higher pay for pro Deo cases by

Comments are closed.