The director of the Coordinating Center for Legal Aid Providing Andriy Vyshnevsky has been deprived of the right to implement lawyer activity. The Statement of the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) of September 10, 2015 caused a great resonance among human rights activists. The fact of persecution of the lawyer Vyshnevsky developed into a much wider topic – the fight for independence of the Bar of the Ukraine and the need of its reforming.
Officially the fact of deprivation of Andriy Vyshnevsky of the right to practice law was confirmed by the Ukrainian National Bar Association on its website in the evening of September, 10. A little earlier Andriy Vyshnevsky published a post to his Facebook page: “Quite expected news. According to the Disciplinary Chamber of Kyiv Municipal Qualifications-Disciplinary Committee of Advocacy in Kyiv region brought me to the disciplinary responsibility in the form of termination of the right to practice law”.
The beginning of the story
The story of disciplinary penalty of Andriy Vyshnevsky began in July, 2015. When taking the floor at the conference in the Supreme Court of Ukraine on June 15, 2015 Vyshnevsky shared his own vision of the professional level of the modern Ukrainian Bar, having focused on its low ethical standards and the extreme urgency of its reforming. The lawyer’s speech contained an open criticism of the UNBA for its inertia and neglecting reforms.
“It deals with low ethical standards and professional level of the Bar; it deals with the fact that a lawyer is the key link in the corruption scheme. It deals with the obvious reluctance of the Bar Association to fight the phenomenon of militia lawyers and express its own attitudes towards it. There’s a lot to speak about, but I see no point in focusing on this. Reforming the Bar has a great relevance. Actually, the Bar in its current condition can become a brake for realization of judicial reforms” (Vishnevsky cited in the statement of UNBA).
On the basis of the above on June 24, 2015 the UNBA submitted the appeal to chairmen of councils of lawyers and the qualifications-disciplinary committees of advocacy in regions with a request to take this information into consideration and to express their own attitudes.
Also the UNBA directed the appeal to the head of Kyiv Municipal Qualifications-Disciplinary Committee of Advocacy in Kiev region with a request to respond, and on July 2 the Committee made the decision to open disciplinary production.
Then Andriy Vyshnevsky published the Statement in connection with the disciplinary production opened against him. The lawyer assured: “Neither undermining authority of the Bar of Ukraine, nor offense of my colleagues, conscientious and respectable lawyers, were not the purpose of my speech. On the contrary, I was eager to draw attention to the conventional problems in the Bar”.
His colleagues from the UNBA condemned prosecution of the lawyer for criticism of the UNBA, having noted that “the use of disciplinary production as a way of pressure upon the lawyer and also prosecution of lawyers for stating their views and believes publicly is inadmissible”.
However, the lawsuit occurred. Though on August 31, 2015 the district administrative court of Kyiv abolished the decision on violation of disciplinary production in case connected to the claim of Kyiv Municipal Qualifications-Disciplinary Committee of Advocacy, the UNBA in September issued the judgment in absentia (!) about the termination of Vyshnevsky’s right to practice law.
Arguments: having examined the facts of the case and also the conclusion of the linguistic examination, the Committee established that the rough single violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that undermines authority of the Bar took place. According to Paragraph 4 of Part 2 of Article 32 of the Law of Ukraine “About legal profession and lawyer activity” such violation is the basis for application to the lawyer of disciplinary penalty in the form of deprivation of the right to implement lawyer activity.
Reaction of human rights activists and colleagues
From the very beginning Andriy Vyshnevsky's prosecution for the incorrect statement, according to the UNBA, caused the discussion of a wider topic - the conflict of interests of the UNBA and the system of free secondary legal aid.
The conflict essence was formulated in particular by the chairman of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU), the lawyer Arkady Bushchenko: “The UNBA just has seen that there is rather successful system of free legal aid and thought that it would be quite good to get such system. That is to subordinate its financial streams and in general management of this system”.
On September 10 representatives of the UNBA stated in the Human Rights program on the Public Radio that the system of free legal aid has elements of pressure upon lawyers from the state. In turn the lawyer Arkady Bushchenko considers that the Bar can't manage the system of free legal aid, this is the responsibility of the state.
Arkady Bushchenko, the chairman of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
- The system will collapse as the Bar can't manage the system of free legal aid, this is the responsibility of the state. Therefore, the conflict of interests takes place here. The Bar of Ukraine, the UNBA have to protect the rights of lawyers. In the system of free legal aid the contractor of lawyers is the state. That is in the relations between the state and lawyers the UNBA has to be engaged in protection of the rights of the last. But it doesn't do it. Instead they want to become managers of public funds and to oppose to the Bar. This conflict of interests is inevitable, - Arkady Bushchenko commented.
Andriy Vyshnevsky, in particular through social networks, is being supported by his colleagues, human rights activists and offered the professional and friendly help.
Roman Romanov, the director of the “Human Rights and Justice” Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation: “In the vortex of the fight for independence the Ukrainian Bar has achieved an obvious success: found itself beyond control of common sense”.
Olena Matviychuk, the head of VRPO “Center of Legal Aid”: “I am a lawyer, I pay membership dues to the UNBA, I cooperate with the FSLA system from the very beginning of its existence as I care of providing primary legal aid in communities in cooperation with compulsory health insurance that together creates a unified system of effective protection of vulnerable groups of the population. I am feeling ashamed of being conscious that I am involved as the lawyer in financing such “heads” of the Bar. I remember how they became those “heads” and started persecuting “disagreeable” lawyers... The system is created by people, it is time to start changing people. I completely support human rights activists’ opinions about the true interests of the UNBA!!!”
Kostyantyn Pilkov, “Cai and Lenard Law Firm”: “Dear non-lawyer friends! While the Bar bodies through such actions are lifting prestige of the profession of a lawyer to incredible heights, let me assure you: most of lawyers are quite capable to distinguish ethics from code of silence, and slander about the profession from recognition of realities”.
Anatoly Rudenko, the director of Alexandria local center of free secondary legal aid: “The decision of Kyiv Municipal Qualifications-Disciplinary Committee of Advocacy is contradictory and executed in traditions of punishment for nonconformity. It is necessary to appeal against the decision in court”.