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Legal aid in Latvia

Questionnaire on legal aid /Latvia/
Conference in Palermo on 12th and 13th November 2009

I./ Procedural aspects
1./ Who decides whether legal aid is granted to a party?
Legal Aid is determined by law in asylum cases. In other cases particular decision is taken by judge. 
In administrative matters, which are complicated for the addressee, pursuant to a decision of court, and taking into account the financial circumstances of the natural person, remuneration to a representative of the natural person shall be paid from the State budget.

2./ Is it possible to challenge this decision?
In asylum cases legal aid is provided by the Legal Aid Administration (LAA) which is the institution subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. It is possible to challenge LAA decision to Administrative district court of the Republic of Latvia.

The judge decision can be challenge according to the Administrative Procedure Law.

3./ Is it possible to obtain legal aid already during the administrative procedure?
Yes, it is possible to obtain legal aid already during the administrative procedure.
4./ Is legal aid valid for the whole procedure, legal remedies included or is decided separately for each level of the law suit?
Legal aid is decided separately for each level of the law suit.
5./ Do applications for legal aid have any impact on the course of the procedure, in particular on the run out of time limits (f.e. for legal remedies)?

II./ Prerequisites for legal aid
1./ Financial means
a./ Are there thresholds concerning income ruled by law or by court practice?
The state provides legal assistance in administrative matters on appeal procedures for asylum process if the asylum seeker has not enough financial means. The person may request it, until a final court decision enters into force.

In other administrative cases decision on remuneration is subject to a natural person’s financial circumstances. The decision is made by the judge.

b./ Are there also such thresholds for real estates and other values?
c./ Are there special rules for legal entities (societies, associations)?

2./ Is the possible outcome of the case of relevance for granting legal aid? 
The granting of legal aid does not make an impact to the outcome of the case.
3./ Are there other criteria for granting or refusing legal aid?

III./ Benefits 
1./ What kinds of costs are covered by legal aid?
Within the framework of one case an asylum can obtain: legal consultations; assistance in preparation of legal (procedural) documents; representation in a court.

In other administrative cases: costs for representative of the natural person.

a./ Court fees
A judge, taking into account the financial situation of a natural person, may decrease the amount of the State fee.

b./ Costs of witnesses, interpreters and experts
c./ The party’s travel expenses
Yes, costs are covered in asylum process.
d./ Advocates or other representatives 

d.a./ Under which conditions are advocates or other representatives at the disposal of the beneficiary in order to represent him in the lawsuit?
(1) A contract regarding the provision of legal aid may be entered into with:
1) a person who may be an advocate in the Republic of Latvia;
2) a sworn notary;
3) a sworn bailiff; 
4) a state-recognised higher education institution which has been implementing an accredited study programme for not less than five years, as a result of completing of which a lawyer qualification is awarded and in which a course or unit established for providing of legal aid is headed by a Doctor of Law; and
5) a natural person with the capacity to act, who meets all the following requirements:
a) he or she has completed an accredited study programme in law in a higher education institution (academic study programme in law or a second-level higher vocational study programme in law and a lawyer qualification),
b) he or she is fluent in the official language;
c) he or she is of good repute, and
d) he or she has obtained at least five years of work experience by working in any of the law specialities.

d.b./ How are these advocates or other representatives selected? Has the party any influence in this selection procedure?
For asylum process the LAA shall choose a legal aid provider for a specific matter, taking into account his:
1) competence;
2) specialisation;
3) workload;
4) ability to provide legal aid in a specific matter (for example, evaluate the possibility of a conflict of interests); and 
5) location in order to evaluate the distance a person has to take to receive legal aid.

Asylum seeker has no any influence in this selection procedure.
In other administrative cases person can chose representative. 
d.c./ Who covers the costs for these advocates or other representatives?
For asylums costs are covered by the LAA.

In other administrative cases costs are covered by The Court Administration.

e./ Has legal aid an influence on the obligation of the beneficiary to refund certain expenses of opposing parties if he finally looses the case? 

IV./ Can legal aid be revoked? 
1./ Under which conditions is it possible to revoke legal aid?
For asylums LAA does not provide legal aid, if:
1) person in writing submit the appropriate request;
2) person, which has been granted legal aid, has died;
3) opinion of legal aid provider’s is received about unsuitable on the future of legal aid;
4) person again without a good reason not arrived at a legal aid provider in the specified time and place and has not notified the absence of legal aid administration, or a legal aid provider or refuses to participate in legal aid or the decision to grant legal aid to ensure compliance;
5) after the decision to grant legal aid adoption is found that a person does not meet the requirements of State Ensured Legal Aid Law.

In other administrative cases legal aid is not revoked.
2./ Can it be revoked even retroactively and can recovery of the state’s expenses be ordered? Which are the conditions for such a decision?
Asylum who has received legal aid shall reimburse the expenses related to legal aid in full amount if the Legal Aid Administration determines that:
1) the person has indicated false information that has been the grounds for the receipt of legal aid;
2) the person abuses his or her rights to legal aid;
3) the person has received undue legal aid.

In other administrative cases if the applicant of the fees paid by the state court’s decision was wholly or partially exempt and the application finally was rejected, the applicant shall be required to repay the state fee in full within three months after the final court decision entry into force.

3./ Are there time limits for such decisions?
The Legal Aid Administration shall take a decision regarding the payment of the expenses related to provision of legal aid and time limits for such decision within 3 years.

There are no time limits for court decision.

V./ Practical importance of legal aid
1./ What is the percentage of cases with legal aid in general?
No data available.
2./ Are there any scopes of administrative law where legal aid is of special importance? What is the percentage of cases with legal aid in these particular fields of administrative law?
Legal aid of special importance is in cases where an action have been brought by an asylum
seeker, a refugee and a person who has been granted the alternative status in the Republic of Latvia.
In 2009 total numbers of applications of asylum seeker are 6.