By Professor Paul Carrier
Professor Paul Carrier has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship – his second – to teach International Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. He is writing a series of posts about his experiences.
Greetings from Belgrade! On assignment at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, I had the good fortune to meet with the President of the Serbian Bar Association recently. There are some very exciting legal happenings afoot. Along with teaching and skills course work, I will try to lend a hand and to learn as much as I can about a national bar in the state of transition. I may also pick up a few tips and pointers regarding an international extradition case.
The Serbian Bar Association is an independent organization promulgating and enforcing the rules of admission and membership since 1868. There are eight regional bar associations for the eight administrative regions in the country, with a Council comprised of members of each regional bar association. Authority to self-govern was granted by the Ministry of Justice, and the main governing body is the Council. (The bar associations of Kosovo and of Metohija are currently not involved in Serbian Bar Association activities due to their steps to become self-governing and fully autonomous regions).
Current issues facing the national bar are a new, voluntary continuing legal education training system responding to EU requirements for accession into the union and a ruling by the national constitutional court that arguably establishes government control over licensing in contravention of the nearly 150 years of autonomy. With regard to the former, a new voluntary system of continuing legal education is set to take effect for the legal bar, with the possible implementation of a mandatory system in due course. The early focus is on criminal law and criminal procedure as the country undergoes transformation from a civil-law advocacy system to a more adversarial one. Of utmost priority is training of attorneys in criminal procedure, especially for witness examination, cross-examination, the use of leading questions, and related matters. Following these efforts, the Advokatska Komora Srbije (AKS) will turn to training regimes for other major practice areas (called “katedra” here, or major practice areas) such as civil law and international law.
A recent decision by the constitutional court has now put into question the autonomy of the AKS. Serbian law only allows review of administrative issues, and not substantive ones. The issue then is one of the separation of powers, i.e., whether it is the Ministry of Justice or some other governmental agency or court to act as the final arbiter of AKS rules and practice, or whether it will remain with the bar association as it has for the last 150 years.
The AKS is also attempting to license, govern and discipline all lawyers in Serbia. Currently, the AKS only has authority over attorneys at law, and not judges or prosecutors, who have their own rule-making and standards-enforcing systems. The AKS also does not have authority over in-house counsel, who are governed and sanctioned in their dealings at commercial courts by their own corporate employers.
The AKS President is involved in an extradition request on an Interpol warrant for a dual citizen of the United States and of Israel involving an international extradition treaty.
Finally, I am also supervising an extern working at a Belgrade business law firm in addition to my duties at the Faculty of Law. In addition to the truly unique legal issues that I am learning here, I will be trying to open more doors to rewarding externship opportunities.