The Lawyers’ Order is in a civil war. But the destitution of its head is doubtful in juridical terms
by Pedro Sales Dias
“But was there any condemnation over torture?”. Perplexed, the national director of the Polícia Judiciária, Almeida Rodrigues, reacts to the controversial accusation from the head of the Lawyers’ Order, Marinho Pinto, in the Joana case. After the inspectors’ condemnation, the head of the Order stated that he was “pleased” because “what we feared was proved”: “that there is torture inside the PJ’s buildings”. Without further comment, Almeida Rodrigues told ‘i’ that the head of the Order has “his own style and nobody takes him seriously anymore”.
It’s not only policemen who look at Marinho Pinto and can’t believe what they hear. On TVI’s National Newscast last Friday, the head of the Order’s fury against Manuela Moura Guedes [evening newscast anchor] became the “hit” of the day, inside and outside the class. “The best reality show of the 2oth, 21st and 22nd centuries”, says José Miguel Júdice. The Lawyers’ Order lives a climate of civil war and the lawyers that were contacted by ‘i’ say that the head of the Order’s statements are overstepping all boundaries. A petition is underway to summon a general assembly in order to lead to the “immediate destitution” of the Order’s head and to “name an administrative commission that manages the Order’s destinies until newly elected organs take their post”.
But despite the growing numbers of those who say they lost confidence in their representative, the substitution of a mandate halfway, through a general assembly, is not foreseen in the statutes, leaving the class with tied hands while facing “an ongoing process of loss of credibility” of their profession.
“The general assembly is of dubious legality and would be a shot in the foot, leading to an endless via sacra of impugnation in court”, states his predecessor in the post, Rogério Alves. This opinion is shared by António Serra Lopes. The lawyer admits that he voted for Marinho Pinto, but stresses that “the experience is revealing itself as desolate”.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. He shoots into every direction, including against the judges. He’s like a boy that spits on his teacher. The situation is serious and at the moment it questions the balance of powers in Portuguese society itself”, he says. For Serra Lopes, there is only one solution: to wait that one out of four disciplinary processes that have been installed against the head of the Order result in a superior punishment of warning, which would lead to the direct exit of Marinho Pinto from his post. “The problem is that, just like society in general, the Order is contaminated by the virus of slowness.”
All other options seem to be… no option. “The Order’s statute is badly made. But the legislator never foresaw a situation where the top post would be occupied by a person who has lost his judgement. I suspect that he is disturbed”, the lawyer mentions.
Rogério Alves considers that, if the substitution through a general assembly is “legally doubtful”, disciplinary processes “cannot serve political purposes”. Therefore, for the former head of the Order, there is no other option but to take a deep breath and wait for the next election, in one and a half year. Until then, he appeals to “common sense” within the Order, asking his colleagues to “be ashamed, to serene the spirits and the monstrous egos and to learn to coexist in divergence”.
“This has to stop, this adolescent retaliation. They have to turn back, to stop throwing a tantrum in the school yard, to brush their jackets, to straighten their glasses and to behave like grown-ups. And this has to start with the head of the Order himself, who is the main culprit”, he says.
Proença de Carvalho mentions that “the situation is worrying and has no example in the entire Order’s history”, but he prefers not to state which would be the best way out of the problem.
José Miguel Júdice is very sceptical about the future: “Marinho Pinto wrecked the Order. And it can’t be recovered. There is a certain kind of event that destroys the structures. It went too far”. For the former head of the Order, “prestige was lost”. Júdice admits that promoting an assembly to remove the head of the Order may be “disputable in juridical terms”, yet states that the best way would be for him to resign out of his own initiative. “If I was head of the Order and saw that the majority of district counsels don’t support me, I’d leave. If I believe that the assembly was not representative, I’d be a candidate again next”. Concerning Marinho Pinto’s “performance” last Friday, on TVI, Júdice says: “They were both at each other’s level, a nil match. She lost and he lost. A kind of boxing match where at the end, both collapse by k.o.”.
source: I, 25.05.2009