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Legal aid

The purpose of legal aid is to allow individuals with insufficient resources to exercise their rights in court.

In special cases, legal aid may be granted to non-profit entities based in the Principality, provided that their activities or situation appears particularly worthy with respect to the matter in dispute and that such entities are unable to afford the anticipated cost of the proceedings.

General eligibility requirements

Legal aid applies to all legal matters.

In criminal proceedings, it may only be granted to the party claiming damages.

Legal aid is refused to any person who clearly lacks any grounds for legal action or in cases where the Monegasque courts lack jurisdiction.

It remains in effect until the sentence is handed down, or from the time of arrest to enforcement of the sentence.

Workplace accidents

Legal aid is automatically granted to the accident victim or the victim's beneficiaries in matters involving workplace accidents for the proceedings before the judge in charge or workplace accidents, the court, the appeals court and the reviewing court.

In this case, legal aid automatically applies to cases before the judge in charge of workplace accidents, all writs of execution regarding the seizure of personal property, any objection related to the enforcement of court decisions and to proceedings for the revision of accident pensions.

Income requirement (except for workplace accidents)

Legal aid is granted to those whose incomes fall below an amount set by Sovereign Ordinance that takes family expenses, where applicable, into account.

The Legal Aid Office

Applications for legal assistance are reviewed by Legal Aid Office.

This office is presided over by an acting or retired judge, appointed by the Chief Justice of the Appeals Court at the beginning of each judicial year. The office also employs:

  • An avocat-défenseur appointed by the president of the Bar Association of Avocat-défenseurs and Lawyers at the beginning of each judicial year 
  • The Auditor-General of Expenses or his/her representative

Secretarial functions are performed by the General Registry of the Courts.

Granting of aid

The Legal Aid Office gathers the information necessary to verify the declarations made by the applicant regarding his or financial situation and to understand the case for which legal aid is requested. To this end, the applicant may ask the Public Prosecutor to carry out an inquiry.

The Office may ask the opposing party to appear before it for a hearing. If this party appears, the Office works to reconcile the parties' interests in order to reach an amicable settlement.

The decision of the Legal Aid Office is made by majority vote.

The decision is communicated to the applicant by the presiding judge within three days, by registered letter with request for acknowledgment of receipt and to the Chief Registrar.

If the request is granted, a copy is sent, for registration purposes, to the Department of Tax Services.

If the application is rejected, the office must provide justification for their decision and indicate the procedure for seeking recourse.

Revoking aid

In any event, legal aid may be revoked if the recipient comes into funds deemed sufficient or if the recipient hires an avocat-défenseur, lawyer or junior lawyer other than the appointed lawyer.

The decision to revoke aid is made by the Legal Aid Office, which reviews requests submitted by any interested party or on its own initiative.

This decision, which must be accompanied by justification, may not be made unless the recipient's explanations have been heard or unless he or she has been duly summoned to provide such explanations. The decision must indicate the procedure for seeking recourse.

It is communicated to the recipient immediately by registered letter with request for acknowledgment of receipt.

As a result, the recipient is required to reimburse the State for any expenses it has incurred pursuant to Article 10.

A copy of the decision must be immediately sent to the registration division of the Department of Tax Services for collection purposes.

Appeals

The decisions made by the Legal Aid Office may be appealed within a period of 15 days following the date on which notice of the decision is received.

Such an appeal is filed before the appeals court, ruling in chambers, by registered letter with request for acknowledgment of receipt sent to the General Court Registry.

The court's decision, handed down as a final ruling, is not subject to appeal.

Provisional granting of legal aid (in urgent matters)

In urgent situations where the case jeopardizes the conditions essential to the applicant's life, the presiding judge of the Legal Aid Office may approve the request for legal aid, submitted by simple letter.

The applicant is immediately notified of the provisional approval for legal aid in the same manner.

If the provisional approval is rejected, the decision may not be appealed. The applicant may, however, file a request following the standard procedure.

Recipients of legal aid must, within the month of the decision granting provisional approval, comply with the requirements of the ordinary procedure in order to allow the Office to make a final decision. If the recipient does not comply, the Office declares that he or she has forfeited his/her rights.

In the event of failure to comply or rejection, recipients must refund the fees and expenses incurred on their behalf.

Consequences of legal aid

Legal aid entitles the recipient to the services of an avocat-défenseur and of an lawyer or junior lawyer, as well as the services of all ministerial officials appointed, in turn, by the Legal Aid Office.

The avocat-défenseur, lawyer or junior lawyer cannot represent or defend the recipient of legal aid if the interests of the recipient and the interests of one or more of its clients are in conflict or if such representation or defense would generate a breach of professional secrecy or a threat to his/her independence.

Unless the parties agree otherwise in writing, the lawyer may not represent or defend the recipient of legal aid if there is a serious risk of such conflict of interest, breach of professional secrecy or threat to his/her independence.

The lawyer may refuse to represent or defend the recipient of legal aid if this recipient clearly refuses to cooperate in the defense of his/her interests.

Legal aid covers the amounts owed to the Treasury for stamp duties, registration fees and fees charged for expert reports, translation or interpretation and insertion, witness fees, and, in general, all legal fees required in the course of proceedings.

The costs to file a court-ordered mortgage are not payable until the mortgage is cancelled if the registrant or debtor is a recipient of legal aid.

Compensation for avocat-défenseurs, lawyers and junior lawyers for legal aid and court-appointed defence services

Avocat-défenseurs, lawyers and junior lawyers who offer their services for legal aid purposes and under court appointments receive compensation from the State.

This compensation is calculated based on the unit of value and coefficients set forth in Ordonnance Souveraine n° 3.388 du 3 août 2011 fixant les modalités de versement de l’indemnité aux avocats- défenseurs, avocats et avocats stagiaires prêtant leur concours au bénéfice de l’assistance judiciaire et des commissions d’office.

The payment made under this law bars any other form of compensation, except in cases where the court appointment was issued without taking the recipient's situation into account and where this recipient is capable of paying the amounts owed to the avocat-défenseur, lawyer or junior lawyer appointed.

In this situation, the lawyer must refuse payment or refund it, if it has been unduly paid.

Upon completion of any service entitling the lawyer to the payment mentioned under Article 13, the Chief Registrar issues a declaration of release from appointment after receiving the required documentation as proof.

Legislation

Act no. 1.378 of 18 May 2011 pertaining to legal aid and compensation for lawyers

Ordinance no. 3.387 of 03 August 2011 specifying terms concerning eligibility for legal aid

Ordinance no. 3.388 of 03 August 2011 establishing terms for the payment of compensation to avocats-défenseurs, lawyers and junior lawyers who provide their support to legal aid and court-appointed defence services

http://en.gouv.mc/Government-Institutions/Institutions/Justice/Legal-aid