Hebron University College of Law & Political Science and its Legal Clinics (in partnership with An-Najah National University Nablus, Birzeit University, Al-Quds University, the Palestinian Bar Association and a number of Netherlands universities funded by nuffic), organized an international conference on the legal profession in Palestine and the prospects for its reform, taking into consideration other countries experience around the world, on 23 and 24 November 2016 at Hebron University campus, West Bank, Palestine. Speakers in the conference are experts from the United States, Britain, Netherlands, Denmark, Qatar, Jordan, the Balkans (Bosnia and Kosovo), as well as from six Palestinian universities: Hebron, Al-Quds, An-Najah, Birzeit, Al-Istiqal, and Palestine Ahliya, the Palestinian Attorney General and Palestinian Bar Association.
The conference discussed the following issues: developments of the law profession in Palestine and challenges facing it; the law governing lawyers; bar Associations; qualifications for the law profession; quality control for those who enter the profession; rights and obligations of lawyers; law profession and gender; legal ethics; disciplinary measures against lawyers who violate professional responsibility; the apprenticeship system; bar examinations; legal aid; relations of the law profession with legal education: law schools, practical lawyering diplomas, lawyers institutes, legal clinics, law curricula, and teaching legal ethics; and relations of lawyers with the judiciary and prosecution.
The following talked at the opening ceremony, which was moderated by Ms. Diana Khleif, Lecturer at the College of Law & Political Science of Hebron University, of the conference: Dr. Salah Alzaroo, President of Hebron University; H.E. Mr. Kamel Hmied, Governor of Hebron; H.E. Mr. Wouter Werner; Representative, Kingdom of the Netherlands in Palestine; H.E. Mr. Husain Shabaneh, Chairman, Palestinian Bar Association; in addition to Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, Dean of the College of Law & Political Science of Hebron University and the conference president.
The conference included six substantive sessions. Session 1, which was moderated by Dr. Ahmad Swaitti, Head of Department of Private Law at Hebron University, addressed the question of Bar Associations and the Labor Market: Requirements and Globalization Challenges.Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, Associate Professor of International Law and Dean of the College of Law & Political Science of Hebron University, explored the “Developments of Legal Profession in Palestine in a Century: Quo Vadis?”. The Representative ofthe Attorney General of the State of Palestine, talked about “the Relationships between Prosecution and the Judiciary: Lawyers Accountability”. Ms. Maha Shomali, Deputy Director in the Middle East and North Africa Division at American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, disused “the Continuing Education for Lawyers”. And, finally, Dr. Kirk Boyd, Executive Director of Unite for Rights (San Francisco, United States), presented a paper on “Suggesting Practical Skills Through a Mixture of Apprenticeship and Course Work”.
In Session 2, speakers tackled the subject of the Social Mission of Bar Associations: Legal Aid and Social Security, which was moderated by Dr. Bassam Qawasmeh, Assistant Professor of Law at Hebron University, and incorporated five presentations. Adv. Fatima Natsheh of the Women Committee of Palestinian Bar Association, introduced “Status of Female Lawyers in Palestine: What’s Required?”. Adv. Suheil Ashour of International Legal Group, analyzed the “Social Protection Scheme of Palestinian Lawyers”. Ms. Helena Gjerding and Ms. Amalie Starch, Lawyers from Denmark, discussed“the Legal Aid System in Demark”.Adv. Ghadanfar Kamanji, Legal Director of the International Law Foundation, disused the “Legal Aid in Criminal Cases”, in general, which Dr. Abdallah Mahmoud, Assistant Professor at the College of Law of Istiqlal University presented “Legal Aid Programs for Juveniles”, in particular.
Here are summaries of the papers presented in Day I of the conference.
“Developments of Legal Profession in Palestine in a Century: Quo Vadis?” By Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, Associate Professor of International Law; Dean, College of Law & Political Science, Hebron University:The main challenge encountered by the law profession in Palestine throughout its hundred-year history is the division over political lines. The split started with the establishment of Palestinian Jewish and Arab Bar Associations under British rule before 1948. The division took another form of separation between Palestinian lawyers in the West Bank, Gaza, and inside Israel between 1948 and 1967. Under Israeli occupation (1967-1994), lawyers were partitioned into three factions: striking lawyers affiliating with the Jordanian Bar Association, practicing lawyers who formed the Arab Lawyers Union, and the Gaza lawyers who founded the Lawyers Society. Together these three bodies formed the transitional council of a Palestinian Bar in 1997. Since the 2003 Bar election, lawyers have been unified under the 'Palestinian Bar Association', which has become a well-established body, notwithstanding all challenges facing not only the law profession but also the country as a whole.
“The Relationship between Prosecution and the Judiciary: Lawyers Accountability”, by the representative of the Attorney General of the State of Palestine: Unethical conducts by lawyers are investigated through the Bar disciplinary councils. The Bar forms as many councils as needed, each comprises three lawyers who have practiced for over 10 years. Complaints may be reported to the Bar council by the Attorney General, a fellow lawyer, or any of the parties. After the preliminary examination of the claim, the Bar may refer the complaint to a disciplinary council, which carries its investigations based on criminal procedures law. The lawyer may be instructed to stop practicing during the investigation. Acting as quasi-judicial bodies, disciplinary councils review written documents, notify parties, conduct pleading sessions, hear witnesses, discuss evidence, and record proceedings. After reaching its conclusion, the disciplinary council reports its findings to the Bar council, which acts as an appellant court. The Bar council may confirm the recommendation, modify, or ignore it.The Bar council may declare the lawyer to be innocent, or decide to punish him/her in one of the following four penalties: (1) notification, (2) reprehension, (3) suspension of law license for a fixed period not exceeding five years, or (4) expulsion. When the decision is taken to suspend the lawyer's practice, the Bar council extends letters to this effect to a number of official institutions, including the High Judicial Council (courts), Attorney General, Lands Authority, and Companies Registry.
“The Continuing Education for Lawyers”, by Ms. Maha Shomali, Deputy Director, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Middle East and North Africa Division: The American Bar Association is a leader in policy regarding continuing legal education (CLE) for judges and lawyers in the United States, as well as a provider of CLE to the legal community at large. For over ten years, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has provided technical assistance in the Middle East and North Africa, including the support of continued professional development initiatives across the region. Offering workshops and courses to practicing lawyers and judges, developing CLE curriculum, supporting private and governmental training centers and NGOs focused on professional development, ABA ROLI has witnessed increased interest and value in CLE among MENA institutions. ABA ROLI has worked with various stakeholders to explore and implement sustainable, modern CLE initiatives and models applicable to the region, and will discuss its focus on substantive areas of the law, encouraging modern CLE teaching methods, and building institutional capacity to provide CLE to judges and lawyers in MENA.
“Suggesting Practical Skills Through a Mixture of Apprenticeship and Course Work”, by Dr. Kirk Boyd, Executive Director, Unite for Rights, San Francisco, United States: Often apprenticeships can be beneficial to the firm, the apprentice,and even the client. They should be maintained, but as a matter of choice, not a requirement. Practical training courses on the other hand, should be required. Too often apprenticeships do not provide coaching and teaching that is needed. A middle ground is to make practical training courses required, but allow for petitions to replace some, not all, of the practical training when a written showing has been made regarding the value of the apprenticeship. This showing should include descriptions from both the employer and the apprentice, and be approved by the administrators of the practical training courses so they can decide which, if any, courses can be satisfied through the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships should be monitored, including progress reports. A brief written summary of the apprenticeship should also be provided and kept as a permanent record.
“Status of Female Lawyers in Palestine: What’s Required?”, by Adv. Amani Abu-Arqoup, Women Committee, Palestinian Bar Association: The involvement of female lawyers in leadership positions with the Palestinian Bar Association is still in its infancy phase notwithstanding the increasing number of females in the profession.On a geographical level, there are currently subcommittees working in various Palestinian districts. Each committee comprises three to seven lawyers depending on the needs and number of lawyers in each district. The Palestinian Bar Association is now contemplating to institutionalize such subcommittees by adopting bylaws for them, forming them through election rather than appointment by the Bar's council, and reserving a quota for female lawyers in their membership. This paper discusses how women would play a leadership role in the legal profession, including the adoption of quota system, taking into account the significant increase of the number of females in law schools and in the profession.
“Social Protection Scheme of Palestinian Lawyers”, by Adv.Suheil Ashour, International Legal Group, Palestinian Bar Association: On 1 January 1998, the founding council of Palestinian Bar Association adopted Lawyers Retirement Bylaw based on the 1966 Jordanian Bar Association Law; the bylaw was endorsed by the minister of justice. Interestingly, article 13 of this law gave the right to benefit from the retirement for lawyers who practiced before 9 July 1997. At the same time, the council set up a social solidarity fund to provide one-time substantial financial support to the lawyer's family upon his or her death. Apparently to increase more business opportunities for lawyers, the council issued another bylaw that made it binding for companies to hire lawyers.At the time, lawyers are obliged to pay annual fees, including fees for retirement and social solidarity fund. Is this scheme still meet the needs of lawyers today? And what are the required measures needed to improve the existing system? This what the paper will address.
“The Legal Aid System in Demark”, by Ms. Helena Gjerding and Ms. Amalie Starch, Lawyers from Denmark:In Denmark, the practice of legal aid is divided into different categories: legal aid organizations, lawyers who are giving legal aid pro bono, and lastly there is an opportunity for lawyers who give free counselling to get a small state remuneration. To be eligible to receive legal aid, the advice seeker has to have a yearly income below a certain level. The legal aid organizations are state funded. The funding covers basic expenses including salary for the daily manager. The rest of the legal counsellors are volunteers and are mostly law students. The funding body is the ministry of justice. Apart from initial approval by the Ministry, legal aid is run independently. The most significant improvement to this system would be the possibility of law students to volunteer as interns in a legal aid as an accredited part of law school. The major challenge to this system is that the state funding that lawyers receive is relatively small and most lawyers refuse to take these cases. This in turn means that the system does not achieve its purpose by providing everyone with a fair trial.
“Legal Aid in Criminal Cases”, Adv. Nael Ghanam,Regional Director, International Law Foundation: Legal aid in criminal matters constitutes a guarantee to provide marginalized people accused of committing crimes with free legal representation. There should be a mechanism in place regarding early access to a qualified lawyer to ensure a fair and expeditious trial, in accordance with national and international standards. Legal aid services should be monitored in order to ensure that lawyers are familiar with criminal law and procedure. Hence, it is significant to train lawyers on legal aid. The 2016 Juvenile Protection includes clear provisions regarding legal aid for children. This shows the will of the Palestinian legislator to guarantee the principle of equality among citizens without discrimination, so that poverty would not be a barrier fair trial deprivation. Can this mechanism be extended all other types of criminal cases for adults? This is what the paper would discuss.
“Legal Aid Programs for Juveniles”, by Dr. Abdallah Mahmoud, Assistant Professor, College of Law, Istiqlal University: The Palestinian Bar Association is considered the main legal aid provider to juveniles in conflict with the law. Article 44(7) of the 1999 Legal Profession Law empowers the Chair of the Bar to assign a lawyer to represent any person in need. Given its general mandate to promote the rule of law and fair trial, the Bar decided to activate the aforementioned article. Legal aid to juveniles comes as an application to the fundamental rights set out in the Palestinian Basic Law. The 2016 Juveniles Protection Law laid down the basis for legal aid to juveniles, including rendering pro-bono advice and representation for needy children. This paper discusses the following questions: Is there a law concerning legal aid in Palestine? What is the Bar's role in legal aid to juveniles? How the Juveniles Law addressed the legal aid? What is the role of official institutions and NGOs in such legal aid? To which extent the existing aid programs are successful? Do free legal aid programs compete with lawyers?