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Transition: retrospectives and perspectives
Chapter II. Law Enforcing Institutions
The Institution of Barrister
The economic, political and judicial reforms carried out in the Republic of Moldova over the past decade have made it necessary for barristers to take over a new role within the exercise of justice, the prevention and settlement of court cases and the defense of human rights and liberties. In addition, they had to adapt to a commercial approach to their profession. As important have been the numerous changes in legislation and the fact of Moldova's joining of a number of international institutions whose principles are to be applied in the domestic judicial regime. At the same time barristers represent an independent profession and are obliged to abide by their duties not only towards their clients but also the entire judicial system.
Despite the revolutionary changes that occurred in Moldova post 1991, the 1980 Soviet Regulations on the Profession of Attorney/Barrister had been in effect until 1999, and a corrupt and closed system proliferated. This aroused numerous demands that the profession be liberalized, and it was in 1990 that the Government adopted a special decision on the profession of barrister whereby the Justice Ministry was empowered to issue barrister licenses according to a number of criteria. Because those criteria were relaxed and did not require special barrister training, the number of untrained licensed barristers increased considerably. The quality of barrister services dropped even further when in 1998 the Parliament ruled that the profession of barrister could be exercised based on commercial license. This practice was abolished only in 2001.
In the meantime, the Parliament adopted in May 1999 the Law on the Profession of Barrister. After a brief analysis of this law, the author qualifies it as revolutionary in that it introduced professional guarantees for barristers and equal access to justice for all providing for free judicial services. The law imposed the monopoly of one professional barrister association, the Union of Barristers, which was to help standardize and unify the practice but, at the same time, might have turned into a corrupt, impenetrable institution. This latter shortage was later removed through a Constitutional Court ruling which abolished the monopoly of the Union. However, this ruling produced chaos in the exercise of the profession, as those barristers who left the Union fell out of the Law on barristers.
Further, the author makes a review of a new law on the profession of barrister adopted in 2002. This law reiterates the provisions related to the monopoly of one professional association, sanctions the interference of the procurators with the activity of barristers and fails to provide for the barrister's duty to prevent collisions. Despite these shortages, the law is described as a qualitative step forward in that it contains a whole raft of progressive provisions and thus fully guarantees the independence and confidentiality of the profession of barrister.