Thu, Mar. 09, 2006

Judge May Defend Pro Hac Vice and Pro Bono

CJ - Washington.   On March 9, 2006, the Constitutional Supreme Court in Karlsruhe announced its decision on a constitutional complaint of a retired appellate judge concerning his refused admission as criminal defense counsel, in the matter 2 BvR 951/04 and 2 BvR 1087/04 of February 16, 2006.

The constitutional complaint concerns his admission under §138 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, Strafprozeßordnung, when the judge planned to render altruistically and free of charge legal advice to a criminal defendant. His idea ran into trouble under the Legal Advice Act, Rechtsberatungsgesetz, because judges are not members of a bar.

The court held that the failure of the court to admit the judge pro haec vice on March 31, 2005 violated the petitioner's constitutional rights embodied in Art. 2(1) of the constitution, Grundgesetz.

According the court, Art. 1(1) of the Legal Advice Act does not adequately address constitutional issues in a changed landscape providing for relaxed standards on who may provide legal advice. The intended altruistic legal advice falls within the freedom of citziens to unrestrained activities. The statutory criterion for the businesslike pursuit of legal sevices does not restrict the judge in this situation when the constitutional requirements are taken into account.

The judges overruled the decision rejecting the pro hac vice admission of the petitioner and remanded the matter to the court of appeals.

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