Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)

Conference held in Niš -

The Work of Disciplinary Bodies of Bar Associations

On March 1, 2022, the Judicial Base South Coalition held a hybrid conference, "Work of Disciplinary Bodies of Bar Associations," at its premises in Nis and through the Zoom Platform, where the research "Analysis of the Work of Disciplinary Bodies and Disciplinary Procedures of the Nis Bar Association" was presented. After the presentation of the research, a discussion followed. The conference was attended by lawyers, judges, prosecutors, representatives of state institutions, citizens' associations, international organizations, prominent experts, educational institutions, and the media.

The community of experts and the Serbian public at large share the impression that significant responsibility for the troubles which have for years faced the country's judiciary rests not only with the legislative and executive power but also with the judiciary itself – courts, prosecutors, and attorneys-at-law. Perceptions of how lawyers and bar associations operate are often based on superficial views rather than on findings of professional research. One strand of opinion holds that bar associations protect their members and do not pursue disciplinary charges against individual lawyers efficiently and impartially. In that context, this research was designed to gain documented, fact-based insight into the disciplinary accountability of the legal profession (the bar) and bar associations.

These aspects were discussed in the studio in Niš with:

  • Nevena Petrušić, LLD, author of the study, Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Niš

  • Bojana Arsenijević, researcher, Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Law, University of Niš

  • Nataša Ćirić Išjamović, Attorney-at-Law based in Niš and Disciplinary Judge of the Niš Bar Association

The conversation was moderated by Dragan Đorđević and Mihajlo Čolak, members of the JBS Program Council.

The research was presented in the first part of the conference, and the second part was dedicated to participants' questions and discussion. Contributions to the conference, with their expert views on this topic and recommendations for resolving the issue, were given by Katarina Golubović, Ph.D. attorney-at-law and president of the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights YUCOM, Stefan Vlatković, attorney-at-law from Niš, Milan Jovanović, vice president of CSO Iustitia from Niš and assistant judge at the Commercial Court in Niš, Srdjan Mitic, attorney-at-law from Pirot and president of the Disciplinary Court of the Serbian Bar Association, Ljiljana Stojanovic, editor-in-chief of the Jugpress portal and director of the Center for Democracy and Development of Southern Serbia and Nebojša Stanković, Ph.D. attorney-at-law from Niš.

Here, you can open hyperlinks for:

The conference and research were supported by the Open Society Foundation Serbia.

Conference: The Phenomenon of Mass Claims

In its premises in Niš and through the Zoom platform, the Coalition Judicial Base South held an expert hybrid conference on April 20, 2021, at which the research "The Phenomenon of Mass Claims" was introduced. A discussion followed the presentation. The participants were attorneys at law, judges, prosecutors, state institutions, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, non-profit organizations, prominent experts, educational institutions, and the media.

The issue of mass claims brings legal, financial, and ethical aspects and leads to inevitable negative consequences, both for the judiciary and for all citizens of Serbia. Namely, until the emergence of mass claims against banks, in all previous cases, budget institutions were sued. The plaintiffs were victorious in most cases, so the costs of the lawsuits were borne by the defendant (which was usually a state/public institution). Therefore, the costs of the lost lawsuits were borne by the state. No one knows the total number of these cases and how much they cost the state budget, but it is estimated that it could be several hundred million euros.

In addition to studying the whole phenomenon, the Judicial Base South Coalition's research focused on lawsuits against the National Employment Service (NES). The judges and attorneys at law call these lawsuits colloquially in Serbian: nacionalke. From NES the data was obtained that nacionalke cost the state budget over 3 billion dinars (that is, over 25 million euros) from 2015-2018. When it comes to nacionalke, the coalition's research was conducted in the courts in Niš, Leskovac, and Vranje, where several other facts attract attention: the awarded costs are many times higher than the awarded principal debt; in most proceedings, the experts are the same person; in many proceedings, the value of the dispute is senselessly tiny (in one, only 159 dinars).

Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)
Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)

The research was presented by the author Nebojša Stanković, Ph.D. attorney-at-law from Niš; researcher Milan Jovanović, a trainee judge at the Commercial Court in Niš; and Tamara Tasić, a journalist at Južne vesti. The conference was moderated by Dragan Đorđević and Mihajlo Čolak, members of the Program Council of the Judicial Base South coalition.

Contribution to the conference, with their expert opinion on this topic as well as recommendations for resolving issues related to mass claims, was given by Nevena Petrušić, Ph.D. professor at the Faculty of Law in Niš; Katarina Golubović, Ph.D. attorney-at-law and president of the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights YUCOM; Blažo Nedić, attorney-at-law, mediator and president of the Board of Partners Serbia; and Aleksandra Petrović, journalist of Politika.

Text of the research is available here. (Besides the author Nebojša Stanković and researcher Milan Jovanović, the research included researchers Milivoje Zlatković from Vranje and Lazar Jović from Grdelica.)

The conference and research were supported by the Open Society Foundation Serbia.

The conference recording in the Serbian language (the English version will be available soon):

Active researches

During 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, three research were conducted:

  • Research: Analysis of the work of disciplinary bodies and disciplinary procedures of the Bar Association of Niš

The work of the disciplinary bodies of the Serbian Bar Association (AKS) and the bodies of the bar associations in its composition, as well as the manner of implementation and the outcome of disciplinary proceedings, are almost completely unknown. There are no consolidated and publicly available data on the number of filed disciplinary charges/proposals against lawyers and trainee lawyers, nor is there data on the number of filed indictments and the type of violations of legal duties for which indictments were filed, as well as the number of verdicts and types of disciplinary measures. Although disciplinary prosecutors and disciplinary courts are required to submit annual reports on their work to the assemblies, which they do, these reports are generally not publicly available, and those that are, provide only basic data on the number of reports and indictments filed ie indictments. on the number of judgments rendered and proceedings pending.

The application of regulations on the disciplinary liability of lawyers and attorneys-at-law has not been the subject of independent scientific and professional analysis, so there is a lack of knowledge about the most common violations of advocacy duties and reputation of lawyers, the frequency of disciplinary proceedings, their efficiency and effectiveness. The public learns about certain cases of flagrant violation of the lawyer's duty and unethical behavior from the media, but there is mostly no information about the reaction of the competent authorities and the legal epilogue of such cases. Having in mind the role of the bar and the lack of insight into the practice of disciplinary bodies of bar associations, there was a justified need to comprehensively and comprehensively investigate the manner of work of disciplinary bodies and the results of conducted disciplinary proceedings.

As the activity of the Judicial Base South is focused on the territory of southern Serbia, the research covered the practice of disciplinary bodies of the Bar Association of Nis (AKN). The aim was to gain insight into the reasons and frequency of filing disciplinary reports/proposals and the practice of AKN disciplinary bodies in the process of accusing, prosecuting and sanctioning violations of advocacy duties and damaging the reputation of the bar and reviewing the degree of efficiency and effectiveness of disciplinary proceedings at all stages. Therefore, the goal is to gain insight into the practice of the AKN disciplinary court and the AKS disciplinary court, as a second instance court in processing cases of violation of lawyer's duties and damage to the reputation of the bar.

The author of the research is Dr. Nevena Petrusic, a professor at the Faculty of Law in Nis, who was assisted by researchers Bojana Arsenijevic, a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Law in Nis and Katarina Momirovic, a lawyer from Nis. The research will be presented in the second half of 2021.

  • Research: Identifying the needs of civil society organizations for publishing in an open format data from the judiciary

Open databases give the public the opportunity to get information or research what interests them. Their greatest value, in addition to easy availability, is the (predominant) quality of information. We are talking about the data behind the state, its institutions and its checks. The aim of the research was to determine the needs of associations and media in the south of Serbia for publishing data from the judiciary in an open format. About 2/3 of the associations and media that participated in the research had needs in their work for data from the judiciary. The research team was led by the author of the research, Ivan Grujić, director of the Association Agency, from Leskovac. Researchers from Nis, lawyers Milica Stanković and Jelena Videnović and Info Vranjski journalist Mihajlo Stojković helped him in his work on the research. A sociologist participated in compiling the questionnaire. The research will be presented to the public in June 2021.

  • Research: The phenomenon of mass claims

In the mid-2000s, mass court litigation appeared in the judicial system of Serbia, which in everyday communication is called "mass law". The phenomenon is very complex and through it, the legal, financial and ethical aspects are broken. The judiciary, the state and the state attorney's office seem to be still surprised by this phenomenon and do not find an appropriate answer, so the number of mass gatherings is rapidly increasing from year to year and contributes to increasing the workload of courts, and thus increasing the duration of other cases. Finally, due to the awarded costs, these cases are a great burden on the state budget. The author of the research is Dr. Nebojsa Stankovic, a lawyer from Nis, who led a team of researchers consisting of Milan Jovanovic, a trainee judge from Nis, Lazar Jovic, a trainee lawyer from Grdelica and Milivoje Zlatkovic, a trainee lawyer from Vranje. The research was presented at an online conference, held in Nis on April 20, 2021. A link to the research text and a snapshot of the event is available in the section above.

Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)

Strengthening the capacity for rule of law - Southern Serbia

The intention of the engagement was to contribute to capacity building in understanding the current problems related to the judiciary and the inclusion of new efforts in dealing with this topic in the south of Serbia. In 2019 we selected a group of 19 participants that attended the series of 16 lectures throughout 2020. The lectures addressed current issues of the judiciary and were conducted in Niš. The selection of participants was based on the following criteria: age up to 33 years, an equal number of men and women, representation of participants from all five districts in which the coalition is active; furthermore, the representation of young professionals in the judiciary (courts, prosecutor's office, bar association) and final year students of the Faculty of Law, journalists and NGO activists. The intention was to have a group that besides lawyers involves members who are not lawyers but have enthusiasm, motivation for engagement and the ability to advocate and communicate through the media and social networks.

The entire coalition Program Council participated in the shaping of the curriculum. For each of the lectures, a four-member coalition team formulated the concept of the lecture (in consultation with the lecturer) and compiled a brief describing the issues related to the topic, theses, a short biography of the lecturer and a list of references with hyperlinks. This team consisted of:

- Dr. Ivan Ilić, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Niš; President of the association Iustitia from Niš;

- Dejan Stamenković, Judge of the High Court in Leskovac;

- Sofija Mandić, CEPRIS;

- Mihajlo Čolak, program coordinator of Open Society Foundation;

(Ilić, Stamenković and Čolak are members of the coalition Program Council)

In total 23 lecturers participated, half of whom are from the south of Serbia. Eight lectures were held in the coalition premises, and eight via the Zoom platform, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All lectures were covered by the local media partners and the following content was produced:

- Four video interviews called "15 minutes", on Južne vesti in which lecturers participated;

- Two media reports, prepared by Južne vesti;

- Sixteen media reports, prepared by Info Vranjske;

- Four interviews by Medijska kutija and one interview in newspaper Danas;

All lectures aimed to open a certain topic in the local. For more details regarding media content, please check here.

The project was supported by the Open Society Foundation Serbia.

Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)
Coalition Judicial Base South (JBS)