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Israel Bar Association

"Sahar Mitzvah" - the Israelbars Pro-Bono Program

31.12.2008

The Program enables the implementation of Section 3(2) of the Israel Bar Association Law, which stipulates that "The Bar Association is entitled, inter alia, to provide legal aid to those of limited means". Indeed, the objective of the program is to increase accessibility to the legal system, and to protect the rights of those who lack the means to hire professional legal services.

 

Overview

 

At the end of April 2002, the Israel Bar Association's Central Committee approved the "Sahar Mitzvah" program, a legal aid (pro-bono) program that recruits lawyers to provide legal services to the needy as well as to sectors of the population afflicted by hardship. Program beneficiaries are individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford legal services, and would therefore be deprived of their fundamental right to legal representation.

 

The program was initiated by Dr. Shlomo Cohen, President of the Israel Bar Association, and Adv. Shachar Welner, Chair of the Israel Bar Associations Legal Aid Committee. The program is headed by leading lawyer Yigal Arnon. Members of the Bar Associations Legal Aid Committee act to advance and expand the program.

 

The Program enables the implementation of Section 3(2) of the Israel Bar Association Law, which stipulates that "The Bar Association is entitled, inter alia, to provide legal aid to those of limited means". Indeed, the objective of the program is to increase accessibility to the legal system, and to protect the rights of those who lack the means to hire professional legal services.

 

Initially, an appeal was made directly to all licensed attorneys in Israel, asking them to participate in the program. A computerized data base of volunteer lawyers, distributed according to geographical area, type of volunteer work and area of specialization, was compiled by the bar association. To date, the pool of volunteers includes approximately 1800 lawyers.

 

The program began operation, on a trial basis, in September 2002. To date, legal aid has been provided to hundreds of individuals who applied for aid from the various help centres throughout the country.

 

Informing those in Need of Aid

 

In January 2003, after a three month pilot period, the program was officially launched and made public through a media campaign including a television broadcast and notices in newspapers. The campaign was prepared on a volunteer basis by the advertising agency, Bauman Bar Rebanai, and broadcast by television channels at the end of December 2002, and during the months February and May 2003.

 

The 1-700 Line

 

In January 2003, after a pilot period of three months, the bar association began to operate a telephone hotline to receive requests for aid under the program. The hotline's phone number is 1-700-50-55-50.

 

The line was advertised, as mentioned above, through a television broadcast. The bar association has set up a team of volunteers, operated inter alia by students, to answer telephone calls and refer callers accordingly

.

Operation of the 1 - 700 line, from 2003 - 2006

 

            

    Hotline applications (TLV district)   

    Referrals to the State's Legal Aid

   2003   

 3942

 1104

   2004

 2782

 806

   2005

 2440

 687

   2006

 2282

 689

  Total

 11446

 3566

 

Our Internet Site is: www.israelbar.org.il/pro-bono

 

Aid is provided on two levels:

 

1. Initial counsel and guidance at help centre

 

The help center is the point for initial legal aid. The Center's is designed to provide initial aid only, and to help people help themselves. At the help centers, volunteer lawyers inform people of their legal rights and obligations, and instruct them about how to exercise their rights. This service is provided to all who approach help centers, without checking eligibility according to criteria.

 

Today there are 30 active help centres throughout the country, 10 in the Tel Aviv and Central District, 9 in the Jerusalem district, 5 in the Haifa district,4  in the Northern District and 2 in the Southern District.

 

Ø The list of centres is attached

 

2. Legal Representation in Judicial Tribunals

 

As mentioned, the program provides pro-bono legal representation only to those whom meet eligibility conditions, according to criteria determined by the Bar Association.

 

Applications for legal representation are transferred from the help centres and/or other sources to regional coordinators who bring the applications before a District Committee which examines eligibility under the criteria determined by the Bar Association. Once the committee has determined that the applicant is eligible for voluntary legal representation, the regional coordinator transfers the applicants file to a lawyer who has volunteered to litigate in the case concerned.

 

Ø Attached are the Bar Associations criteria for receiving legal aid:      

 

N.B The Ministry of Justice also provides legal representation to those of limited means, in accordance with the criteria laid down in the 1973 Legal Aid Regulations.

 

In order to maximize the extent of aid available, the criteria determined by the Israel Bar Association are complimentary and cases dealt with by the "Sahar Mitzvah" Program do not overlap with those handled by the Legal Aid Department of the Ministry of Justice.

 

Accordingly, if an individual who has appealed to the help centre meets the requirements for state legal aid, the volunteer at the centre will help him complete the Legal Aid Departments application form, and refers him to the Ministry of Justice's local Legal Aid Bureau.

 

Urgent motions for to extend deadlines for the submission of court documents, and stays of proceedings, are prepared by volunteers on call at the help centre. The case is transferred simultaneously to the regional coordinator or to the local Legal Aid Bureau of the Justice Ministry, as applicable.

 

When the application for legal representation involves a personal injury suit or other cases based on contingency fees, volunteers are instructed to advise the person to approach a private lawyer on a contingency basis.

 

When applicants are not eligible for aid according to the criteria determined by the bar association, the applicant is recommended to approach a private lawyer, but no specific referrals are made.

 

Help Center Activities 2002  2006

 

 

Applicants to centres 

 legal Counsel Provided 

Eligible for legal representation 

Eligible for State legal Aid 

 2002 

 623

 394

 38

 153

 2003

 2390

 1460

 138

 523

 2004

 2189

 1453

 161

 583

 2005

 2562

 1269

 234

 592

 2006

 2479

 1197

 191

 703

 Total 

 10,243

 5728

 762

 2554

 

  

Additional Voluntary Activities under the Program

 

1. Telephone Counsel for Lawyers Volunteering at Centers - Volunteers provide advice by telephone, in their areas of expertise.

 

Telephone calls are made by lawyers volunteering at the centre, when they feel the need to consult with lawyers specializing in the relevant field.

 

2. The Telephone "Hotline" - A team of volunteers mans the 1-700 line that receives calls for legal aid. Each call is answered by a volunteer who examines the issue concerned and completes an initial eligibility check. In suitable cases, callers are referred for to a centre or to legal representation. The hotline is based at the offices of the Bar Association in Tel Aviv.

 

3. Special Teams - Special teams have been set up within the Bar Associations Legal Aid Committee, to work for increased accessibility to the legal system, and to increase the supply of legal services to those who lack the means to obtain them. Teams meet once a month, or less frequently, according to need, in order to discuss on-going problems and to formulate decisions. A representative from every team is chosen to participate in the relevant Bar Association committees, in order to coordinate stances and to advance the interests of the "Sahar Mitzvah" program both inside and outside of the Bar Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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