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România la CEDO: cauza pendinte CHIRIȚĂ. Avocată condamnată penal, excluderea pentru atingerea adusă demnității și onoarei avocaților, și articolul 8 din Convenție
29.05.2020 | Mihaela MAZILU-BABEL

JURIDICE - In Law We Trust Monitor Dosare
Mihaela Mazilu-Babel

Mihaela Mazilu-Babel

Secția a patra, CEDO

Cererea nr. 59730/18
Florentina CHIRIȚĂ împotriva României
introdusă pe 5 decembrie 2018 și comunicată la 3 aprilie 2020 și publicată la 25 mai 2020

1. Obiectul cererii (precum este redat de CEDO și tradus de noi repede cu ajutorul lui Google Translate):

Cererea privește radierea reclamantei din tabloul avocaților ca urmare a condamnării sale penale.

În special, din cauza condamnării sale definitive din 13 aprilie 2016 pentru tulburarea ordinii publice de către Înalta Curte de Casație și Justiție („Înalta Curte”), reclamanta a făcut obiectul unei proceduri disciplinare care a avut ca rezultat, la 19 aprilie 2016, radierea din barou și, prin urmare, excluderea sa din profesia de avocat.

Această decizie, justificată de săvârșirea unei infracțiuni care ar putea submina principiile demnității și onoarei avocaților (art. 14 lit. (a) din Legea nr. 51/1995), a fost confirmată la 4 iunie 2016 de către Consiliul Ordinului.

În apelul reclamantei, printr-o hotărâre din 14 mai 2018 (notificată reclamantei la 29 octombrie 2018), Curtea de Apel București a confirmat decizia disciplinară pronunțată de Consiliul Ordinului.

Reclamanta invocă, în esență, o încălcare a dreptului ei la respectarea vieții sale private, întrucât, potrivit acesteia, dreptul național nu prevedea în mod expres ce infracțiuni ar fi putut încălca principiile demnității și onoarei avocaților și jurisdicțiile interne nu au efectuat o analiză detaliată și circumstanțiată a situației sale înainte de a pronunța radierea sa din barou (articolul 8 din Convenție).

2. Întrebările comunicate

A existat o ingerință în dreptul reclamantei la respectarea vieții sale private, în sensul articolului 8 § 1 din Convenție, din cauza deciziei de excludere barou, confirmată de instanțele interne? În acest caz, interferența cu privire la exercitarea acestui drept este prevăzută de lege și necesară în sensul articolului 8§2 (a se vedea, mutatis mutandis, Namazov c. Azerbaidjan, nr. 7435413, §§41-52, 31 ianuarie 2020)?

3. Jurisprudența CEDO relevantă invocată de chiar CEDO: Namazov c. Azerbaidjan, nr. 74354.13, §§41-52, 31 ianuarie 2020

(b) Whether the interference was justified

41. Such an interference will be in breach of Article 8 of the Convention unless it can be justified under paragraph 2 of Article 8 as being “in accordance with the law”, pursuing one or more of the legitimate aims listed therein, and being “necessary in a democratic society” in order to achieve the aim or aims concerned.
(i) Whether the interference was in accordance with the law

42. The Court observes that Article 22 (VIII) of the Law provided that if there were grounds serving as a basis for the exclusion of a lawyer from the ABA, the Presidium can, on the basis of an opinion of the disciplinary commission, apply to a court for resolution of the matter and suspend the lawyer’s activity until the entry into force of the court decision on the issue (see paragraph 28 above). Moreover, although the statute was adopted only on 8 December 2012, Article 18 of the Law also contained provisions relating to lawyer ethics (see paragraphs 28 and 29 above). The Court, therefore, accepts that the sanction imposed on the applicant had a basis in domestic law and that the law was accessible.

43. As regards the applicant’s argument that Article 22 (VIII) of the Law did not meet the requirement of the quality of law because the notion of “grounds serving as a basis” lacked sufficient clarity and precision, in the light of its conclusion regarding the necessity of the interference (see paragraphs 51 and 52 below), the Court does not consider it necessary to determine this point in the present case (see Özpınar v. Turkey, no. 20999/04, § 54, 19 October 2010, and Şahin Kuş v. Turkey, no. 33160/04, § 43, 7 June 2016). The Court will therefore leave open the question whether the interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his private life may be regarded as being “in accordance with the law”, within the meaning of Article 8 § 2 of the Convention.

(ii) Whether the interference pursued a legitimate ai

44. The Court observes that the parties disagree on the legitimate aim pursued by the interference (see paragraphs 36 and 38 above). The Court, however, endorses the Government’s assessment that the interference had pursued the legitimate aim of “the prevention of disorder”, since it concerns the regulation of the legal profession which participates in the good administration of justice (see Bigaeva, cited above, § 31).
(iii) Whether the interference was “necessary in a democratic society”

45. An interference will be considered “necessary in a democratic society” for a legitimate aim if it answers a “pressing social need” and, in particular, if it is proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and if the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify it are “relevant and sufficient” (see Fernández Martínez v. Spain [GC], no. 56030/07, § 124, ECHR 2014 (extracts)). The fairness of the proceedings and the procedural guarantees afforded are factors to be taken into account when assessing the proportionality of an interference with the right to private life under Article 8 of the Convention (see İhsan Ay v. Turkey, no. 34288/04, § 37, 21 January 2014).

46. As regards the regulation of the legal profession, the Court also considers it necessary to reiterate that the proper functioning of the courts would not be possible without relations based on consideration and mutual respect between the various protagonists in the justice system, at the forefront of which are judges and lawyers (see Bono v. France, no. 29024/11, § 51, 15 December 2015, and Ottan v. France, no. 41841/12, § 72, 19 April 2018). The specific status of lawyers gives them a central position in the administration of justice as intermediaries between the public and the courts. That special role of lawyers, as independent professionals, in the administration of justice entails a number of duties, particularly with regard to their conduct. Whilst they are subject to restrictions on their professional conduct, which must be discreet, honest and dignified, they also enjoy exclusive rights and privileges that may vary from one jurisdiction to another – among them, usually, a certain latitude regarding arguments used in court (see Morice v. France [GC], no. 29369/10, §§ 132‑33, ECHR 2015). In addition, professional associations of lawyers play a fundamental role in ensuring the protection of human rights and must therefore be able to act independently, and respect towards professional colleagues and self-regulation of the legal profession are paramount (see Jankauskas v. Lithuania (no. 2), no. 50446/09, § 78, 27 June 2017).

47. Turning to the circumstances of the present case, the Court observes that, following the disciplinary proceedings instituted against the applicant, the Presidium decided to refer the applicant’s case to the Fuzuli District Court, which ordered his disbarment for breach of lawyer ethics by a judgment of 15 December 2011. That judgment was upheld by the Shirvan Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, respectively on 10 May 2012 and 8 May 2013.

48. In the course of the disciplinary and domestic court proceedings, as well as before the Court, the applicant argued that his statements had been misreported and that the transcripts of the relevant court hearings had been falsified by the judge. In that connection, the Court notes that despite its explicit request to the Government to submit copies of all the documents relating to the disciplinary proceedings against the applicant, the Government failed to provide the Court with a copy of the transcripts of the court hearings held on 9, 18 and 27 August 2011 before the Nasimi District Court. The Court does not, however, consider it necessary to examine in the present case whether all the statements in question are attributable to the applicant, because in any event the impugned interference was not necessary in a democratic society for the following reasons.

49. The Court observes that the disciplinary proceedings against the applicant were instituted and conducted by the disciplinary commission and the Presidium of the ABA, which is a self-regulatory body of the legal profession. The Court, however, notes that the applicant enjoyed very few safeguards in those disciplinary proceedings (compare Özpınar, cited above, § 77). In particular, although the disciplinary commission and the Presidium of the ABA explicitly referred to the Nasimi District Court’s decision of 27 August 2011 and the extracts from the transcripts of the court hearings held on 9, 18 and 27 August 2011 when they decided to impose a disciplinary sanction on the applicant, they refused to provide the applicant with a copy of those documents despite the applicant’s explicit request in that regard. The disciplinary commission also refused to hear evidence from other lawyers participating in the above-mentioned hearings before the Nasimi District Court in order to clarify the events leading to the disciplinary complaint against the applicant. The Court also cannot overlook the fact that the Presidents of the disciplinary commission and the ABA openly criticised the applicant for his frequent appearances in the media and his affiliation to an opposition political party, which were not related to the subject matter of the disciplinary proceedings instituted against him.

50. As regards the court proceedings relating to the applicant’s disbarment, the Court notes that the domestic courts failed not only to remedy the above-mentioned shortcomings in the disciplinary proceedings, but also failed to sufficiently assess the proportionality of the interference. The Court considers it necessary to draw attention to Recommendation R (2000) 21 of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to member States on the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer, which clearly states that the principle of proportionality should be respected in determining sanctions for disciplinary offences committed by lawyers (see paragraph 30 above). However, in the present case the domestic courts confined themselves in their decisions to a reference to the applicant’s previous disciplinary sanctions, disregarding the fact that, even assuming that the applicant had been given a serious warning in the Presidium’s decision of 26 April 2006, that decision could not be considered as a disciplinary sanction since Article 22 of the Law did not provide for such a disciplinary sanction (see paragraph 28 above). They further failed to give any reason as to why a lenient sanction, like suspension from practising for a period of from three months to one year, as provided by Article 22 of the Law, would have not been possible in the present case instead of disbarment, which cannot but be regarded as a harsh sanction, capable of having a chilling effect on the performance by lawyers of their duties as defence counsel (see Igor Kabanov v. Russia, no. 8921/05, §§ 55 and 57, 3 February 2011).

51. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the reasons given by the domestic courts in support of the applicant’s disbarment were not relevant and sufficient, and that the sanction imposed on the applicant was disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.

52. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

dr. Mihaela Mazilu-Babel

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