Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has submitted a bill to regulate the country's bar associations, a senior official said Tuesday.
"For the bars that have more than 5,000 members, we are bringing a regulation that at least 2,000 lawyers can form the second, the third or the fourth bar by coming together," Cahit Özkan, deputy group chair of the AK Party, told reporters in Parliament.
Each bar association in the provinces will be represented by three delegates and a president in the General Assembly of Union of Turkish Bar Associations, Özkan noted. "Before bringing the regulation forward, we went through rigorous study," he said.
The bill indicates that the lawyers will pay half of the bar fee in the first five years of their career.
There are a total of 80 bar associations in Turkey, one association for each province – except Ordu and Giresun provinces, where the associations were united due to the low number of lawyers.
Accordingly, elections for bar associations will be held in the first week of September and those for the General Assembly of the Union of Turkish Bar associations will be held in December.
The regulation for the multiple bar association system was opposed by all 80 bar associations, 29 of which marched to Ankara on June 20. These bar associations called on the government to stop work on a multiple bar associations system, a proposal that even the bar associations that did not participate in the protests have united against. In protest of the regulation, hundreds of lawyers came together in front of Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse Tuesday. Shouting “defense resists,” the lawyers said they will do whatever it takes to stop the regulation from passing in Parliament. Another group of lawyers also protested against the bill in the capital city of Ankara.The ruling party, on the other hand, says the bill is not against the position of attorneys in general but instead regards the administrative structures of the bar associations.
According to this new proposal, the bar associations will still be administrated from one united center, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB). However, there will no longer be one bar association for each province.
This proposal mainly affects metropoles such as Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara, due to their large number of lawyers. For instance, in Istanbul, there could be five different bar associations at the same time if the proposal becomes law. The lawyers will be able to choose any one of the bars in provinces where there are more than one bar association. If the number of lawyers falls below 2,000 in an association, the TBB will demand the association incorporate the minimum number of lawyers within six months. If the number is not provided, the TBB will end the association’s legal entity and publish this decision on its official website. Those lawyers and interns that were registered to the association will register with another association if there is one in the province within 15 days after the announcement of the TBB and will continue their work in this association. The liquidation procedures of the association will be managed by its last administrative board and under the control of the TBB, while the union will receive the remaining assets of the association.
In the current system, since there is no proportional representation, the associations with more members have more voice in the TBB and are also able to form administrative branches with people they choose, rather than having a variety of lawyers that can represent all segments of society.
Most bar associations in Turkey are highly critical of the judicial system and confidence in judges and prosecutors has been destroyed. Yet, TBB head Metin Feyzioğlu invited the bar heads to adopt constructive criticism and problem-solving attitudes, rather than just critical attitudes.
“Today, we all have problems with the judiciary and want a more reliable judiciary. We want the judge, the prosecutor, the lawyer in the bench to be more equipped, we want justice to appear faster, we want to say right to what is right and false to what is false, we want control mechanisms,” Feyzioğlu said, adding that many steps have been taken to reform the legal system, but the systems cannot be changed overnight.
Lawyers critical of the bill said that the proposal would limit their associations’ power of oversight. For example, they may hesitate to penalize members who commit ethical violations if that were to push their association below the minimum membership threshold, they said.
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