Friday, August 14, 2020

"For meg er det et mysterium at regjeringen skal legge seg opp i dette på denne måten" [For me, it is a mystery that the government should get involved in this in this way], Unraveling the "Mystery" of the Norwegian Government's Block of Rules Limiting Lawyer Advice that Entails Human Rights Violations

16th-century painting of a civil law notary, by Flemish painter Quentin Massys

Global consensus appears to be moving steadily toward the embrace of a principle touching on  "the ethical considerations which a lawyer should take into account in the field of business and human rights when advising clients." (International Bar Association IBA Business and Human Rights Guidance for Bar Associations (2015) Chp. III, art. 5 ("Increasing awareness of lawyers as to the UNGPs"). Indeed, the Commentary to Article 5 notes the need for lawyer regulatory organs to regulate in this area in a comprehensive manner, acknowledging that the work of a lawyer may well extend well beyond technical legal advice(see my discussion Lawyers Are Not Algorithms: Sustainability, Corruption, and the Role of the Lawyer in Institutional Frameworks and Corporate Transactions).
Bar associations may also wish to consider, in examining their codes of professional conduct, the differing roles that lawyers play in addressing business human rights issues: that is, as technical advisers, or as trusted advisors, or as leaders of the institutions in which they work. They may also wish to consider the impact of the differing institutions in which lawyers work and address business and human rights issues, such as outside law firms, in house counsel departments, governments, and civil society, among others. (Ibid., art. 5 Commentary).
At the same time, the IBA appeared well aware that this could not be a one-size-fits-all approach--and certainly that the template for lawyer and ethics regulation structurally necessary and in vogue in Common law states, might not serve as useful models for encouraging sensitivity to these issues.
The codes of a number of bar associations are already strongly aligned with the UNGPs, although it is possible that there will be tensions and dilemmas arising from their application in practice. Therefore, individual bar associations, to the extent they have authority to do so in their respective jurisdictions, may wish to consider whether, and the extent to which, their own professional codes of conduct prevent, permit, encourage or require lawyers to take the risk of human rights impact into account in their advice to business clients and how to address potential dilemmas. (Ibid., art. 5 Commentary).
Specifically with respect to the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (endorsed 2011), the IBA has also sought to provide some guidance reflecting their sense of global consensus among those with the (moral) authority to drive such expression (International Bar Association, IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers (2016)).  The Practical Guide seeks to promote the quite salutary objective of more robustly embedding the UNGPs, as normative principles, and as guides to conduct, in the critical work of lawyer engagement with their clients, the courts, and those with whom they deal on behalf of their clients.

Yet it also includes includes two quite interesting cautions for those seeking to impose mandatory human rights enhancing ethical regimes.  The first touches on the human rights of clients.
Accordingly, the UNGPs do not impinge upon a client’s right to assert a robust legal defence to claims that it has engaged in conduct that violates human rights, to seek judicial determination of human rights issues, and to seek legal advice on them. This right cannot be abridged even if the client is highly unpopular. (Practical Guide, supra, p. 28).
The second, and perhaps more interesting caveat, touches on the alignment of the principles of the UNGP, and the regulatory systems around which lawyer ethical duties are developed and imposed (and consequently, the rules used to discipline lawyers for the quality of their interactions with clients and others). That is, the caveat touches on the dangers of transposing normative principle to regulatory or administrative regulation.
The IBA International Principles also note that while ‘the principles of independence of the lawyer and of the legal profession are undisputed in all jurisdictions adhering to, and striving for, the improvement of the Rule of Law, the respective regulatory and organisational frameworks vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction’ (Commentary, Section 1.3). This variation applies to the factors that lawyers may be permitted or encouraged to consider in providing independent advice, including non-legal contextual factors such as the human rights impacts of the client’s activities as relevant to the legal services. In any event, neither the UNGPs nor the Practical Guide are intended to override or add to the professional standards of any jurisdiction or to prescribe any of the factors that they may or may not consider as independent professionals.(Ibid., pp. 28-29).

This is not to suggest that the normative principles of the UNGP have very little potential for regulatory transposition. It merely suggests that the character of that transposition requires sensitivity to context and legal system--and to the cultures under which it is undertaken.
Nevertheless, the UNGPs do have a role to play in supporting the role of lawyers to provide their independent legal advice and services in a manner that takes account of specific human rights impacts and the client’s best interests. The UNGPs present significant opportunities for lawyers who advise business, both internal and external counsel, based on the increasing demand for such advise by clients. They also present challenges, including for law firms in their capacity as business enterprises with their own responsibility to respect human rights both in the management of the firm as a business and in the legal services provided to clients.(Ibid., p. 40).
The IBA position likely represents the solid middle ground of the profession; it represents an effort to "push" lawyers toward a revised baseline from which ethical legal work ought to be undertaken; at the same it it stops far short of mandatory accountability around measures (including specific applications of the UNGP) which remain both contested and to some extent still in development.   It that respect it represents a middle ground from which one might better consider changes to the way that lawyer regulatory bodies are approaching the quite crucial question of lawyer engagement with core principles of human rights in a UNGP context.

It is with this in mind that it is possible to more clearly and dispassionately consider the "interesting spat" that recently emerged into public view, precipitated by efforts of the Norwegian Bar to draft mandatory provisions embedding the UNGP into the ethical universe of legal practice, and the governmental response--to block these efforts as flawed.    The response cannot be unexpected.  For people who feel passionately about the need to embed human rights (not to mention issues of sustainability and climate change) into the matrix of mandatory normative principles guiding the ethical provision of legal services, the blocking appears to be a quite provocative and reactionary act. Passion will likely cause people to say things they might later regret--if they are lawyers; otherwise, the strategic (mis)use of this blocking might be too tempting to pass up.  Traditionalist voices might  (mis)perceive the government's actions as a sort of vindication of the position that lawyers have no direct ethical duty touching on human rights (much less sustainability and climate change principles).

Both are only partially correct, and thus mostly wrong.  They are wrong in the sense that what is likely a technical and contextually quite specific disagreement about the modalities of incorporating human rights sensibilities within the domestic legal order of Norway (and its quite important constitutional order--bound up as it is with that of the ECHR and other overarching principles and decisions which constrain the range of their regulatory responses) might be exploited for its politics.  And thus exploited the core objective at the center of this dispute--the need to increase lawyer ethical accountability for the way they approach their ethical obligations--will be lost.  That is the real pity--not of the spat--but of the spat about the spat that is surely even now emerging.

This post includes relevant reporting (Norwegian with crude English translations) and some brief observations.

As one reads through the reporting several points stand out

1. Both the government and the Bar Association share the same core normative values when it comes to human rights, the rule of law, and the role of the UNGP in shaping both in the context of the ecnomic activities of enterprises (and their stakeholders, including lawyers).

2. There is something of a rule of law irony here where the Norwegian Bar Association recoils from accountability. The arguments from process legitimacy within the Bar Association does not speak at all to the need for process legitimacy within the state apparatus. To take the position that their decision is neither subject to review by a more democratically representative organ of state (however "wrong" they may be) strikes as odd in this context with human rights and democratic legitimacy at its core.

3.  At the same time, the state's responsibility of deference appears to be deficient. It is not clear that here, as in many instances in administrative cultures within liberal democratic states, exercises of administrative discretion, especially reviewing the quasi administrative regulatory work of subordinate organs, ought themselves to be subject to examination for abuse of discretion. But then the same ought to be applied to a rigorous accountability of the efforts that produced the blocked rules from the Bar Association itsef.

4.  It becomes clear, then, that the "spat" is not a normative one, but perhaps one involving ego, allocation of authority, and quite sharp differences over the interpretation (reasonable) of plausible alternative views to the character and suitability of the rules as written, and as they might be enforced.  Yet that alone is important. First it suggests that there may be no right answer--rather a range of plausible approaches that embrace the common normative fidelity to the principles of the UNGP.  Second, it suggests that the issue is specific to the governance order of Norway in general--and to the way Norwegian civil law works especially in the context of the regulation of lawyers. 

5. Given the character of the differences between the Bar Association and government officials, it is possible to focus on the quite specific objection that caused the block--ambiguity. For many people who grew up in liberal democratic states after the start of this century constitutional objections based on vagueness might be viewed with suspicion as a cover for political choices.  And yet there was a time, not so long ago, that the essence of constitutional protection of the people against the excesses of the exercise of a legislative power that might be understood as constitutionally abusive was wrapped around the concept of vagueness and of the vanguard role of courts (at eats in the United States) as the state organs essential to guard against the enactment of deliberately vague law to provide a cover to the executive power to do as they pleased (Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972)).

6.  It is in the argument that focus on regulatory clarity, then, that the divisions between the Bar Association and the state becomes far more  interesting, and useful. Its utility extends beyond the arguments proposed about the appropriate interpretation of the rule at issue.  Far more important are the consequences around that interpretation. The more vague or general the rule, the more likely that the power to apply them shift from individuals to flow to functionaries with the power to apply the rules in context.  The resulting facts and circumstances variations in results provides a cover for unchecked exercises of administrative discretion; it also provides a veil behind which abuse can occur with impunity. On the other hand, rules that are too precise become irrelevant in the sense that in their narrowness they may be evaded or word around. In this case there is the possibility of a double ambiguity--the first revolving around the appropriate interpretation of the UNGPs as applicable as a matter of law in Norway, and the second touches on the appropriate interpretation of the Bar rule itself in the context in which it is to be applied. Consider the portion of the disputed rule 1.4 that reads (in English); "By human rights is meant the same as in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights." Here it is not clear whether what is referenced are human rights that are a matter of Norwegian constitutional law (Pillar I human rights framework) or the human rights with respect to which enterprises have a global responsibility (Pillar 2 human rights framework), or both depending on the circumstances. The tensions are already on display in the work of the Norwegian Ethics Council of the Pension Fund Global about which I have had much to say (e.g., Sovereign Investing and Markets-Based Transnational Rule of Law Building: The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund in Global Markets).

7.  There is, or ought to be, a tremendous gulf that separates the craft of norm making--of the politics of constructing societal core narratives (including fr example those within the UNGP framework)--and the quite technical and precise craft of regulatory drafting, which serves as the source of precise commands, the assignment of responsibility, and the source of punishment for breach. That difference requires substantially different approaches.  The former helps create the value systems within which rule of law systems may assess and conceptualize conduct.  These provide a general guide to approaching behavior (e.g., killing someone is bad). The later provides the precise scope of responsibility that people must use to guide their behavior in specific context (if one kills someone in one's house who is about to stab me in the heart does that constitute killing for which I may be punished). 

8.  And here, the ramifications of the debate between the Norwegian Bar and its state organs, provides some potentially profound insights for related activities.  Foremost among them are those that revolve around the current efforts to cobble together--as law (not norm)--an international instrument for business and human rights. One can afford to be sloppy when one is crafting narrative; one cannot afford that and remain true to the human rights commitment to rule of law and fairness in the construction of legal systems.  One can argue about where that line is  with reference to specific legislative efforts.  That is what is occurring, it seems, here (or ought to be occurring in any case). And yet this lesson appears to continue to elude those who are driving the business and human rights treaty process.  And here again, a framework treaty approach, rather than one grounded in the construction of a legal code, is better suited to the objectives.  That insight applies with some force as well to the good work of the Norwegian Bar.

Nina Schmidt Redaktør og journalist
Publisert torsdag 13. august 2020 - 13:18 Sist oppdatert torsdag 13. august 2020 - 14:27

- Advokatforeningen skal ikke, etter en omfattende og god prosess internt da bestemmelsen ble vedtatt, gå i dialog med statens myndigheter om hvilke forpliktelser advokater skal påta seg selv. Det er ikke en forhandlingsposisjon, sier Advokatforeningens leder Jon Wessel-Aas.

Men Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet står på sitt.

- Etter departementets syn oppfyller ikke nytt punkt 1.4 de alminnelige kravene til klarhet og presisjon i lovgivningen, sier statssekretær Lars Jacob Hiim i Justisdepartementet til Advokatbladet.
Levd med regelen i to år

Det var i mai 2018 at representantskapet i Advokatforeningen vedtok et nytt punkt om menneskerettigheter i Regler for god advokatskikk.

Det nye punktet, som nå utgjør punkt 1.4 i Regler for god advokatskikk, lyder slik:

«En advokat skal ikke gi råd som advokaten forstår eller må forstå vil innebære krenkelse av noens menneskerettigheter eller en betydelig risiko for dette. Med menneskerettigheter menes det samme som i FNs veiledende prinsipper for næringsliv og menneskerettigheter.»

Bestemmelsen ble etter vedtagelsen oversendt Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet for at den skulle bli innlemmet i advokatforskriften i domstolloven, og dermed gjøres gjeldende for alle landets advokater, ikke bare for medlemmene av Advokatforeningen.

Drøye nitti prosent av alle norske advokater er medlemmer av foreningen.
- Svært vidtrekkende og til dels uklar

I et brev til Advokatforeningen skriver departementet at anmodningen om å stadfeste regelendringen ikke kan etterkommes, og viser til at blant annet Regjeringsadvokaten og Tilsynsrådet hadde innvendinger da den nye regelen i fjor var ute på høring.

«Tungtveiende høringsinstanser har frarådet å stadfeste punkt 1.4 i RGA som en del av advokatforskriften kapittel 12. Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet er enig med Regjeringsadvokaten og Tilsynsrådet i at ordlyden i punkt 1.4 er svært vidtrekkende og til dels uklar, og at dette vil kunne medføre at bestemmelsen blir utfordrende å anvende i praksis, både for advokatene som skal rette seg etter den, og for disiplinærmyndighetene som skal vurdere om det foreligger brudd i det enkelte tilfelle», skriver departementet.

Hvis man leser forarbeidene, er den nye bestemmelsen absolutt ikke vanskelig å forstå, mener Advokatforeningens leder.

- Den nærmere forståelsen av pkt 1.4 er forklart godt i kommunikasjonen i forbindelse med høringsprosessen, i «forarbeidene» som man kan kalle det. Akkurat slik jurister er godt vant til, sier Jon Wessel-Aas.
- Tydelig avgrensning av rekkevidde

Både Regjeringsadvokaten og Tilsynsrådet har misforstått regelen, mener Advokatforeningen, og viser til at presiseringen i regelen som viser til FNs veiledende prinsipper, medfører en avgrensning av bestemmelsens rekkevidde.

«Bestemmelsen omfatter ikke enhver menneskerettslig problematikk som måtte oppstå i en relasjon. (...) Punkt 1.4 retter seg mot advokatens rådgivning overfor klienter som driver næringsvirksomhet, herunder de retningslinjer som også gjelder for offentlige myndigheter etter FNs veiledende prinsipper», presiserer foreningen i et brev til departementet fra i fjor høst.

Bestemmelsen rammer de kvalifisert klanderverdige tilfellene, basert på tilsvarende vurderinger for de øvrige bestemmelsene i RGA, presiserer foreningen videre.

Formuleringen «forstår eller må forstå» er ment å avgrense mot gråsoner og tvilstilfeller med hensyn til om en menneskerettighet er krenket eller ikke, eller eventuell risiko for dette, påpeker foreningen, og viser til at formuleringen må leses på bakgrunn av aktsomhetsplikten advokater har etter FNs veiledende prinsipper.

«Denne aktsomhetsplikten består først og fremst i at advokaten skal bevisstgjøre og veilede sin klient om aktuelle menneskerettslige problemstillinger som kan tenkes å oppstå. I de tilfeller hvor det kan være tale om grove eller systematiske brudd på grunnleggende/sentrale menneskerettslige bestemmelser, så skjerpes terskelen til aktsomhet. Vurderingstemaet er altså om advokaten har gjort en tilstrekkelig aktsom vurdering, men terskelen for å finne brudd på den etiske regel vil være høy, jf. «forstår el/er må forstå»», heter det i brevet fra foreningen.
- Ikke uklar for dem det gjelder

Innvendingene fra Regjeringsadvokaten og Tilsynsrådet treffer ikke, mener Wessel-Aas.

- Tilsynsrådet har gitt noen eksempler på situasjoner der advokater ikke skulle kunne ta prosessoppdrag i saker der menneskerettsspørsmål er relevante, dersom man mener at klienten har en dårlig sak. Dette er misforstått. Regelen uttrykker kun hva man har plikt til å flagge når man rådgir næringslivet eller offentlige etater, sier han.

- Jeg vet ikke hva regjeringen er redd for. Dette er ikke en etisk bestemmelse som hindrer advokater i å prosedere klientens sak, selv om denne saken skulle dreie seg om menneskerettigheter. Tvert imot har advokater plikt til å forsvare sin klient utad og i retten. Ingen advokater skal felles for å forsvare klienten sin. Regelen er kun myntet på rådgivningsfasen, sier Wessel-Aas.
- Demokratisk prosess internt
Jon Wessel-Aas synes at departementets avgjørelse både er overraskende og oppsiktsvekkende.
- Regelendringen har vært gjennom en omfattende og demokratisk prosess i Advokatforeningen, med interne høringer og debatter i alle kretser og i utvalg der advokater fra alle typer advokatvirksomheter har deltatt. Den nye regelen er vedtatt av foreningens øverste organ, representantskapet. At regelen skulle være uklar, er vi veldig uenige i. Den har vært klar nok for den profesjonen den gjelder i over to år nå, sier Wessel-Aas.
Etter at regelen trådte i kraft for Advokatforeningens medlemmer, har ingen blitt felt for å ha brutt den.
At regelen er plassert i det første kapittelet i RGA, som omhandler overordnede profesjonsetiske prinsipper, er ikke tilfeldig, understreker han.
- Her presiseres blant annet advokaters plikt til å fremme rett og hindre urett, som jo også er en ganske vag formulering, men som vi lever godt med. Vi snakker uansett ikke om straffebestemmelser, men om profesjonsetiske regler.

- Kan ikke overprøves
Det er Advokatforeningen som skal lage, vedta og oppdatere de profesjonsetiske reglene, ikke myndighetene, understreker han.
- Da Regler for god advokatskikk ble tatt inn som en del av advokatforskriften til domstolloven for over tjue år siden, var det en klar forutsetning at det er Advokatforeningen som selv skal lage de profesjonsetiske reglene for advokater.
- Det har aldri vært meningen at det er regjeringen som skal lage de etiske reglene for advokater. De skal vi lage selv, selv om det bare er regjeringen som har myndighet til å gjøre forskriftsendringer i tråd med Advokatforeningens egne definisjoner. Det har aldri vært tanken at regjeringen skal kunne overprøve denne type endringer. I dette spørsmålet har advokatene valgt å pålegge seg selv ytterligere plikter, og da er det jo litt merkelig at regjeringen plutselig skal vise en slik rørende omsorg for oss at de mener at de må beskyttes oss mot oss selv, sier Wessel-Aas.
- For oss er dette ikke bare en ukontroversiell revidering av advokatenes etiske regler i vår tid, men helt i tråd med samfunnsutviklingen.
Advokatforeningen er stolt over å ha vedtatt en egen menneskerettighetsregel i sitt etiske regelverk, understreker han.
- De veiledende prinsippene er vedtatt av FN-organer som er representative for hele verden, fordi man har identifisert menneskerettsbrudd som et stort problem. Dette er jo den norske regjeringen svært opptatt av på et internasjonalt plan. Hvorfor de da er så redde for å følge på dette på hjemmefronten, ved at advokatene selv påtar seg en plikt til å bidra til bevisstgjøring om dette gjennom sin rådgivning til klienter, det skjønner vi ikke, sier Wessel-Aas.

- En annen holdning utad
Advokatforeningen viser til at staten i den såkalte eierskapsmeldingen om hvordan staten skal utøve sitt eierskap, som ble lagt frem av regjeringen i fjor høst, selv forventer at selskaper arbeider for å ivareta menneskerettigheter og arbeidstakerrettigheter.
- Der viser regjeringen selv uttrykkelig til nettopp FNs veiledende prinsipper, slik vårt punkt i RGA gjør. Innføringen av den nye MR-regelen har i seg selv medført at vi har fått en god debatt og høyere bevissthet rundt dette spørsmålet blant advokater, akkurat som ellers i norsk næringsliv. Vi noterer oss at hovedorganisasjonen Virke og LO støtter innføringen, og endringen er i tråd med regjeringens eierskapsmelding. Så det er rett og slett vanskelig å forstå motivet til regjeringen, når de plutselig er imot at advokater selv skal påta seg et ansvar for å være med på en bevisstgjøring i sin rådgivning overfor sine klienter.
- Det er første gang siden advokatforskriften ble vedtatt at det ikke er samsvar mellom Advokatforeningens egne regler og advokatforskriften, sier Wessel-Aas.

Departementet: - Oppfyller ikke kravene
- Etter Justis- og beredskapsdepartementets syn er det positivt at Advokatforeningen ønsker å fremheve advokatenes ansvar for å bevisstgjøre sine klienter om menneskerettighetene i Regler for god advokatskikk (RGA). Brudd på RGA er imidlertid grunnlag for disiplinære følger for advokaten, og bestemmelser som kan gi slike konsekvenser for enkeltindivider bør utformes slik at de ikke etter sin ordlyd rekker videre enn tilsiktet, sier Lars Jacob Hiim, statssekretær i Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet til Advokatbladet.
Derfor må ordlyden endres, mener departementet.
- Etter departementets syn oppfyller ikke nytt punkt 1.4 de alminnelige kravene til klarhet og presisjon i lovgivningen, og bestemmelsen kan på denne bakgrunn ikke stadfestes som en del av advokatforskriften slik den er vedtatt. Departementet har derfor invitert Advokatforeningen til videre dialog om hvordan bestemmelsen kan utformes på en måte som gjør at den likevel vil kunne tas inn i advokatforskriften, sier Hiim.

* * *

The Ministry will not legislate a human rights rule in the Rules of Good Legal Practice
The Ministry of Justice says no to incorporating a new human rights rule in the Advocate Regulations, and wants a new design of the rule. - Nothing to negotiate about, says the Bar Association's leader Jon Wessel-Aas.
Nina Schmidt Editor and journalist
Published Thursday 13 August 2020 - 13:18 Last updated Thursday 13 August 2020 - 14:27

- The Bar Association shall not, after an extensive and good process internally when the provision was adopted, enter into a dialogue with the state authorities about what obligations lawyers should assume themselves. It is not a negotiating position, says the Bar Association's leader Jon Wessel-Aas.

But the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness stands its ground.

- In the Ministry's view, the new section 1.4 does not meet the general requirements for clarity and precision in the legislation, says State Secretary Lars Jacob Hiim in the Ministry of Justice to Advokatbladet.
Lived with the rule for two years

It was in May 2018 that the Supervisory Board of the Norwegian Bar Association adopted a new item on human rights in the Rules of Good Legal Practice.

The new point, which now constitutes point 1.4 in the Rules of Good Legal Practice, reads as follows:

"A lawyer shall not give advice that the lawyer understands or must understand will entail a violation of someone's human rights or a significant risk for this. By human rights is meant the same as in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. "

Following the decision, the provision was sent to the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness so that it would be incorporated into the Advocates' Regulations in the Courts of Justice Act, and thus be applied to all the country's lawyers, not just members of the Bar Association.

Just over ninety percent of all Norwegian lawyers are members of the association.
- Very far-reaching and partly unclear

In a letter to the Norwegian Bar Association, the ministry writes that the request to confirm the rule change cannot be complied with, and points out that, among others, the Government Advocate and the Supervisory Board had objections when the new rule was out for consultation last year.

"Heavy-handed consultative bodies have advised against ratifying section 1.4 of the RGA as part of the Advocate Regulations, Chapter 12. The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness agrees with the Government Advocate and the Supervisory Board that the wording in section 1.4 is very far-reaching and partly unclear, and that this could lead to the provision will be challenging to apply in practice, both for the lawyers who must comply with it, and for the disciplinary authorities who must assess whether there is a breach in the individual case ", the ministry writes.

If you read the preparatory work, the new provision is certainly not difficult to understand, the Bar Association's leader believes.

- The more detailed understanding of section 1.4 is explained well in the communication in connection with the consultation process, in the "preparatory work" as it may be called. Just like lawyers are well used to, says Jon Wessel-Aas.

- Clear delimitation of range

Both the Government Advocate and the Supervisory Board have misunderstood the rule, the Bar Association believes, and points out that the clarification in the rule which refers to the UN's guiding principles, entails a delimitation of the provision's scope.

"The provision does not cover every human rights issue that may arise in a relationship. (...) Section 1.4 is aimed at the lawyer's advice to clients who conduct business, including the guidelines that also apply to public authorities in accordance with the UN's guiding principles ", the association emphasizes in a letter to the ministry from last autumn.

The provision affects the qualified reprehensible cases, based on similar assessments for the other provisions in RGA, the association further emphasizes.

The wording "understand or must understand" is intended to delimit gray areas and cases of doubt as to whether a human right has been violated or not, or any risk of this, the association points out, and points out that the wording must be read on the basis of the duty of care guiding principles.

"This duty of care consists first and foremost in the lawyer raising awareness and guiding his client about current human rights issues that may arise. In cases where there may be gross or systematic violations of basic / central human rights provisions, the threshold for diligence is tightened. The assessment theme is thus whether the lawyer has made a sufficiently careful assessment, but the threshold for finding a breach of the ethical rule will be high, cf. "understands electricity / must understand" ", the letter from the association states.
- Not unclear to those concerned

The objections from the Government Attorney and the Supervisory Board do not apply, Wessel-Aas believes.

- The Supervisory Board has given some examples of situations where lawyers should not be able to take legal assignments in cases where human rights issues are relevant, if it is believed that the client has a bad case. This is misunderstood. The rule only expresses what you have a duty to flag when advising the business community or public agencies, he says.

- I do not know what the government is afraid of. This is not an ethical provision that prevents lawyers from prosecuting the client's case, even if this case is about human rights. On the contrary, lawyers have a duty to defend their client externally and in court. No lawyers should be teamed up to defend their client. The rule is only aimed at the advisory phase, says Wessel-Aas.
- Democratic process internally

Jon Wessel-Aas thinks that the ministry's decision is both surprising and startling.

- The rule change has been through an extensive and democratic process in the Bar Association, with internal hearings and debates in all circles and in committees where lawyers from all types of law firms have participated. The new rule has been adopted by the association's highest body, the supervisory board. We strongly disagree that the rule should be unclear. It has been clear enough for the profession it applies to for over two years now, says Wessel-Aas.

After the rule came into force for the members of the Norwegian Bar Association, no one has been convicted of violating it.

That the rule is placed in the first chapter of the RGA, which deals with overriding principles of professional ethics, is not coincidental, he emphasizes.

- Among other things, it emphasizes the duty of lawyers to promote justice and prevent injustice, which is also a rather vague wording, but which we live well with. In any case, we are not talking about penal provisions, but about professional ethical rules.

- Can not be verified

It is the Bar Association that will create, adopt and update the rules of professional ethics, not the authorities, he emphasizes.

- When Rules for good legal practice were included as part of the Advocates Regulations to the Courts of Justice Act over twenty years ago, it was a clear precondition that it is the Bar Association that will make the professional ethics rules for lawyers.

- It has never been the intention that it is the government that will make the ethical rules for lawyers. We will make them ourselves, even if only the government has the authority to make regulatory changes in line with the Bar Association's own definitions. It has never been the idea that the government should be able to review this type of change. In this question, the lawyers have chosen to impose additional duties on themselves, and then it is a bit strange that the government should suddenly show such touching care for us that they believe that they must be protected from us, says Wessel-Aas.

- For us, this is not just an uncontroversial revision of the lawyers' ethical rules in our time, but completely in line with societal developments.

The Bar Association is proud to have adopted its own human rights rule in its ethical regulations, he emphasizes.

- The guiding principles have been adopted by UN bodies that are representative of the whole world, because human rights violations have been identified as a major problem. The Norwegian government is very concerned about this on an international level. Why they are so afraid to follow this on the home front, in that the lawyers themselves take on a duty to contribute to raising awareness about this through their advice to clients, we do not understand, says Wessel-Aas.

- Another outward attitude

The Bar Association points out that the state in the so-called ownership report on how the state should exercise its ownership, which was presented by the government last autumn, itself expects companies to work to safeguard human rights and employee rights.

- The government itself explicitly refers to the UN's guiding principles, as our point in the RGA does. The introduction of the new MRI rule has in itself meant that we have had a good debate and higher awareness of this issue among lawyers, just as elsewhere in Norwegian business. We note that the main organization Virke and LO support the introduction, and the change is in line with the government's ownership report. So it is simply difficult to understand the motive of the government, when they are suddenly opposed to lawyers themselves taking responsibility for participating in an awareness-raising in their advice to their clients.

- It is the first time since the Advocate Regulations were adopted that there is no correspondence between the Bar Association's own rules and the Advocate Regulations, says Wessel-Aas.

Ministry: - Does not meet the requirements

- In the view of the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness, it is positive that the Bar Association wants to emphasize the lawyers' responsibility to make their clients aware of human rights in the Rules of Good Legal Practice (RGA). Violations of RGA are, however, the basis for disciplinary consequences for the lawyer, and provisions that can have such consequences for individuals should be designed so that they do not go beyond what is intended, says Lars Jacob Hiim, State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Management to Advokatbladet. Therefore, the wording must be changed, the ministry believes.

- In the Ministry's view, the new section 1.4 does not meet the general requirements for clarity and precision in the legislation, and on this basis the provision cannot be confirmed as part of the Advocates' Regulations as adopted. The Ministry has therefore invited the Norwegian Bar Association to further dialogue on how the provision can be formulated in a way that means that it can still be included in the Bar Code, says Hiim.


 Kritikk mot ny MR-regel for advokaterDen nye menneskerettighetsregelen i Regler for god advokatskikk bør ikke bli en del av Advokatforskriften, mener Regjeringsadvokaten og Tilsynsrådet. Menneskerettighetsutvalget i Advokatforeningen mener motstanden er oppsiktsvekkende.
Nina Schmidt Redaktør og journalist
Publisert torsdag 06. juni 2019 - 09:06 Sist oppdatert fredag 07. juni 2019 - 07:55

Representantskapet i Advokatforeningen vedtok i fjor vår en ny regel om
menneskerettigheter i Regler for god advokatskikk. Regelen, punkt 1.4, lyder slik:

«En advokat skal ikke gi råd som advokaten forstår eller må forstå vil innebære krenkelse av noens menneskerettigheter eller en betydelig risiko for dette. Med menneskerettigheter menes det samme som i FNs veiledende prinsipper for næringsliv og menneskerettigheter.»

Advokatforeningen anmodet Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet i juni i fjor om å innlemme regelen i Advokatforskriften slik at den blir gyldig for alle advokater, og i januar i år sendte departementet forslag ut på høring.

Da høringsfristen gikk ut i begynnelsen av april, hadde en rekke organisasjoner svart. Mens mange støtter forslaget, er enkelte kritiske.

- Privatiserer menneskerettigheter

Tilsynsrådet for advokatvirksomhet skriver i sitt høringssvar at det først og fremst er en statlig oppgave å påse at noens menneskerettigheter ikke blir krenket. Advokatforeningens forslag innebærer at ansvaret overføres til privatpersoner, hevder Tilsynsrådet.

«Etter Tilsynsrådets syn er det en svakhet at ikke Advokatforeningen, hverken i sitt anmodningsbrev eller i «Rapport om næringsliv og menneskerettigheter for advokater», reiser noen motforestillinger mot å gi FN-konvensjoner direkte rettslig virkning overfor den enkelte privatpraktiserende advokat».
Denne omleggingen er av stor prinsipiell betydning, og bestemmelsen bør derfor ikke innføres før det er gjort en bredere vurdering og utredning av virkningene, mener Tilsynsrådet.

Tilsynsrådet peker også på at FN-prinsippene ikke er ment å være rettslig bindende, og peker på at «ingen andre land, etter det Tilsynsrådet er kjent med, (har) vedtatt å la FNs menneskerettighetskataloger få direkte rettslig virkning overfor privatpraktiserende advokater».
Den nye bestemmelsen kan også få følger for advokaters uavhengighet, og for advokatenes taushetsplikt, mener Tilsynsrådet.

Rammer for bredt

Også Regjeringsadvokaten er negativ. Plikten som ligger i bestemmelsen rammer vesentlig bredere enn forslagets intensjon tilsier, og ordlyden er lite presis, skriver advokat Marius Emberland hos Regjeringsadvokaten i høringssvaret.

Dersom regelen blir en del av Advokatforskriften, vil den også gjelde for eksempel for advokater i offentlige etater som Helsedirektoratet, Utlendingsnemnda og Bane NOR, og legge begrensninger på disse, påpeker han.

«Punkt 1.4 vil imidlertid etter sin ordlyd legge begrensninger på andre former for advokatvirksomhet og andre advokater enn forslagsstillerne synes å være opptatt av.»

Utilsiktet begrensninger?

Menneskerettighetene er ikke hugget i stein, og det er betydelig usikkerhet om normenes innhold og rekkevidde, heter det videre.

«Forslaget reflekterer ikke de betydelige kompliserende faktorene som gjør seg gjeldende på dette (retts)området».

Det kan stilles spørsmål om forslaget faktisk inneholder utilsiktede begrensninger på advokatenes rolle nettopp i å ivareta også egne klienters menneskerettigheter, mener Regjeringsadvokaten.

«Regjeringsadvokaten vil påpeke at menneskerettigheter generelt, og EMK spesielt, påberopes i et meget stort antall saker hvert år både overfor forvaltningen og i domstolene. (…) For advokater som har i oppdrag å forsvare forvaltningens vedtak og handlinger, vil oppgaven være å argumentere for at den menneskerettslige situasjonen ikke er brutt (som ofte også vil være tilfelle). Det vil også i mange situasjoner være tale om avveininger mellom konkurrerende menneskerettslige regler, der den ene taler for én løsning, og den andre en annen. Tar man forslaget til forskriftsendring på ordet, vil ingen av partenes advokater i en slik situasjon kunne gi råd til sine klienter», skriver Regjeringsadvokaten.

Advokater ut mot bestemmelsen

Flere av høringsinstansene viser til at advokatene Brynjar Østgård, Steinar Mageli og Øivind Østberg i et innlegg i Dagens Næringsliv i januar gikk ut mot den nye bestemmelsen i RGA.

«Hva med advokater som får i oppdrag å bistå en arbeidsgiver i en sak som gjelder en typisk kulturkollisjon på arbeidsplassen? Skal advokaten på forhånd være avskåret fra for eksempel å råde sin klient til å starte en oppsigelsesprosess mot for eksempel en eiendomsmegler som nekter å håndhilse på kvinner, en servitør som nekter å servere alkohol og svinekjøtt eller en kvinnelig barnehagelærer som plutselig ønsker å gå fullt tildekket på grunn av sin religiøse overbevisning?», skrev de tre i innlegget.

«De ansvarlige regjeringspolitikerne bør tenke seg om to ganger før de setter landets advokater på denne karusellen», het det i DN-innlegget.

– Bør få ny struktur

Brynjar Østgård, som sitter i Advokatforeningens representantskap, mener at Regjeringsadvokatens og Tilsynsrådets kritikk er treffende, dekkende og relevant.
– Lignende innvendinger ble også fremført av min bror Hallvard under representantskapsmøtet i fjor, der foreningen vedtok å sende dette til departementet, uten at det vant gehør, forteller Østgård.
Han mener at Representantskapet fikk for lite tid til å debattere forslaget.
I etterkant av fjorårets representantskapsmøte har Brynjar Østgård fremmet et forslag om at det opprettes et formannskap i representantskapet som kan styre møtenes dagsorden.

– Oppsiktsvekkende motstand

– Det er oppsiktsvekkende at de offentlige ansatte advokatene ser det som problematisk å forholde seg til de menneskerettslige rammene i sin rådgiving, sier Else Leona McClimans, leder i Advokatforeningens MR-utvalg.
– Deres klienter er direkte bundet av menneskerettighetskonvensjonene, og disse advokatene må vel uansett råde sine klienter til å holde seg innenfor de menneskerettslige rammene når advokaten «forstår eller må forstå» at enkeltpersoners rettigheter vil bli krenket. Det er vanskelig å se at den nye regelen innfører noen nye begrensninger for de offentlige advokatene, sier hun.

Hun minner om at den etiske regelen allerede gjelder for Advokatforeningens medlemmer.

– Den ble vedtatt etter en omfattende og grundig behandling i foreningen, sier hun.
Hun er glad for at mange av høringsinstansene støtter forslaget om å innlemme regelen i Advokatforskriften. Hun er ikke enig i at den nye bestemmelsen kan få følger for advokaters uavhengighet, og for advokatenes taushetsplikt.

– Det er godt etisk advokatarbeid å trekke menneskerettsrisikoene inn i rådgivningen advokaten skal foreta for en klient. Valgene er det selvfølgelig alltid klienten som gjør. Jeg kan ikke se at denne reglen medfører vesentlige begrensinger i advokatenes uavhengighet. Advokaten skal jo alltid gi rådgivning som er til klientens beste. Regelen omhandler kun advokatens rådgivning, og legger ikke begrensninger på det forsvar som advokaten kan gi en klient i prosess, sier McClimans.

* * *

 Criticism of new MRI rule for lawyers
The new human rights rule in the Rules of Good Legal Practice should not become part of the Advocate Regulations, the Government Advocate and the Supervisory Board believe. The Human Rights Committee of the Norwegian Bar Association believes the opposition is sensational.

Nina Schmidt Editor and journalist
Published Thursday 06 June 2019 - 09:06 Last updated Friday 07 June 2019 - 07:55

Last spring, the Supervisory Board of the Norwegian Bar Association adopted a new rule on human rights in the Rules of Good Legal Practice. The rule, section 1.4, reads as follows:

"A lawyer shall not give advice that the lawyer understands or must understand will entail a violation of someone's human rights or a significant risk for this. By human rights is meant the same as in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."

The Norwegian Bar Association asked the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness in June last year to incorporate the rule in the Bar Code so that it becomes valid for all lawyers, and in January this year the ministry sent out proposals for consultation.

When the consultation deadline expired in early April, a number of organizations had responded. While many support the proposal, some are critical.
- Privatizes human rights

The Supervisory Board for the Legal Profession writes in its response to the consultation that it is first and foremost a state task to ensure that someone's human rights are not violated. The Bar Association's proposal means that the responsibility is transferred to private individuals, the Supervisory Board claims.

"In the Supervisory Board's view, it is a weakness that the Bar Association, neither in its request letter nor in the 'Report on Business and Human Rights for Lawyers', raises any objections to giving UN conventions direct legal effect against the individual practicing lawyer."

This reorganization is of great fundamental importance, and the provision should therefore not be introduced until a broader assessment and assessment of the effects has been made, the Supervisory Board believes.

The Supervisory Board also points out that the UN principles are not intended to be legally binding, and points out that "no other country, as far as the Supervisory Board is aware, has (has) decided to allow the UN human rights catalogs to have direct legal effect on private lawyers".

The new provision may also have consequences for lawyers 'independence, and for lawyers' duty of confidentiality, the Supervisory Board believes.
Frames too wide

The Government Advocate is also negative. The duty contained in the provision is much broader than the proposal's intention implies, and the wording is not very precise, writes lawyer Marius Emberland at the Government Attorney in the consultation response.

If the rule becomes part of the Advocate Regulations, it will also apply, for example, to lawyers in public agencies such as the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the Immigration Appeals Board and Bane NOR, and impose restrictions on these, he points out.

"However, section 1.4 will, according to its wording, place restrictions on other forms of law practice and other lawyers than the proponents seem to be concerned about."
Accidental Restrictions?

Human rights are not set in stone, and there is considerable uncertainty about the content and scope of the norms, it is further stated.

"The proposal does not reflect the significant complicating factors that apply in this (legal) area."

It can be questioned whether the proposal actually contains unintentional restrictions on the lawyers 'role in safeguarding their own clients' human rights, the Government Advocate believes.

"The Attorney General will point out that human rights in general, and the ECHR in particular, are invoked in a very large number of cases each year both before the administration and in the courts. (…) For lawyers who are tasked with defending the administration's decisions and actions, the task will be to argue that the human rights situation has not been violated (which will often also be the case). In many situations, there will also be trade-offs between competing human rights rules, where one advocates one solution and the other another. If you take the proposal for a change in regulations to the word, none of the parties' lawyers in such a situation will be able to give advice to their clients ", writes the Government Attorney.
Lawyers against the provision

Several of the consultative bodies point out that the lawyers Brynjar Østgård, Steinar Mageli and Øivind Østberg in a post in Dagens Næringsliv in January went against the new provision in RGA.

"What about lawyers who are commissioned to assist an employer in a case involving a typical cultural clash in the workplace? Should the lawyer be barred in advance from, for example, advising his client to start a dismissal process against, for example, a real estate agent who refuses to shake hands with women, a waiter who refuses to serve alcohol and pork or a female kindergarten teacher who suddenly wants to go fully covered because of their religious beliefs? ”, the three wrote in the post.

 "The responsible government politicians should think twice before putting the country's lawyers on this carousel," it was stated in the DN post.
- Should get a new structure

Brynjar Østgård, who sits on the Bar Association's supervisory board, believes that the Government Advocate's and the Supervisory Board's criticisms are apt, comprehensive and relevant.

- Similar objections were also raised by my brother Hallvard during the supervisory board meeting last year, where the association decided to send this to the ministry, without gaining a hearing, says Østgård.

He believes that the Supervisory Board was given too little time to debate the proposal.

Following last year's supervisory board meeting, Brynjar Østgård has put forward a proposal to establish a chairmanship of the supervisory board that can manage the agenda of the meetings.
- Striking resistance

- It is startling that the publicly employed lawyers see it as problematic to relate to the human rights framework in their advice, says Else Leona McClimans, leader of the Norwegian Bar Association's MR committee.

- Their clients are directly bound by the human rights conventions, and these lawyers must in any case advise their clients to stay within the human rights framework when the lawyer "understands or must understand" that the rights of individuals will be violated. It is difficult to see that the new rule introduces any new restrictions for public lawyers, she says.

She reminds that the ethical rule already applies to the Bar Association's members.

- It was adopted after a comprehensive and thorough treatment in the association, she says.

She is pleased that many of the consultative bodies support the proposal to incorporate the rule in the Advocate Regulations. She does not agree that the new provision may have consequences for lawyers 'independence, and for lawyers' duty of confidentiality.

- It is good ethical lawyer work to include the human rights risks in the advice the lawyer must provide for a client. Of course, the choices are always made by the client. I do not see that this rule entails significant restrictions on the independence of lawyers. The lawyer must always provide advice that is in the client's best interests. The rule only deals with the lawyer's advice, and does not place restrictions on the defense that the lawyer can give a client in the process, says McClimans.


Menneskerettigheter inn i Regler for god advokatskikk

I slutten av mai vedtok Advokatforeningen en ny regel om advokatens forhold til menneskerettigheter.

Publisert Sist oppdatert
31. mai 2018 vedtok representantskapet i Advokatforeningen det som nå heter punkt 1.4 om advokatenes relasjon til menneskerettighetene. I den står det at:
«En advokat skal ikke gi råd som advokaten forstår eller må forstå vil innebære krenkelse av noens menneskerettigheter eller en betydelig risiko for dette. Med menneskerettigheter menes det samme som i FNs veiledende prinsipper for næringsliv og menneskerettigheter.»

Vil klargjøre etisk ansvar

Regelendringen kommer etter anbefaling fra et ad hoc-utvalg, som tidligere i år lagde en veiledning for advokater om næringsliv og menneskerettigheter. Det var også utvalget som foreslo at det burde innlemmes en regel om menneskerettigheter i Regler for god advokatskikk (RGA).
Utvalget mener den nye regelen klargjør advokatenes etiske ansvar for å vurdere risikoen for menneskerettighetsbrudd ved sin virksomhet, skriver Advokatforeningen på sine nettsider.

Debatt i representantskapet

Brødene Hallvard og Brynjar Østgård var negative til å innføre et nytt punkt om menneskerettigheter i RGA, men fikk ikke gjennomslag.

– Ordlyden som foreslås er ekstremt vid, og har ingen begrensninger. Det er prinsipielt underlig og etter mitt syn uakseptabelt at rettslig rådgivning skal få yrkesmessige konsekvenser så lenge vi holder oss innenfor norsk lov, sa Hovedstyre-medlem, Hallvard Østgård, og fortsatte:
– Vi har i de advokatetiske kravene i dag krav til etisk rådgivning, så dette blir en utvidelse.
– Min klare anbefaling er å vedta forslaget slik det står, svarte leder for Advokatforeningen, Jens Johan Hjort.
Forslaget ble vedtatt mot fire stemmer.

– Passer advokatrollen godt

Den nye regelen er en presisering av punkt 1.2 som sier at advokater skal «fremme rett og hindre urett».
Det var advokat Frode Elgesem, leder for Advokatforeningens menneskerettighetsutvalg, som ledet ad hoc-utvalget bak veiledningen for advokater om næringsliv og menneskerettigheter. Han skriver i et debattinnlegg til Advokatbladet at den nye regel passer advokatrollen godt.
– Den nye regelen innebærer at advokatene må være aktsomme når det gjelder menneskerettskonsekvensene av sine råd og dermed bidra til å øke respekten for menneskerettighetene i næringslivet, skriver han.
Endringen gjelder for Advokatforeningens medlemmer, men er ennå ikke tatt inn i Advokatforskriften.

* * *

Human rights into the Rules of Good Legal Practice
At the end of May, the Norwegian Bar Association adopted a new rule on the lawyer's relationship to human rights.

Thea N. Dahl Journalist
Published Wednesday 20 June 2018 - 11:21 Last updated Thursday 13 August 2020 - 08:52

On 31 May 2018, the Supervisory Board of the Norwegian Bar Association adopted what is now called section 1.4 on lawyers' relationship to human rights. It states that:

"A lawyer shall not give advice that the lawyer understands or must understand will entail a violation of someone's human rights or a significant risk for this. By human rights is meant the same as in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. "

Will clarify ethical responsibility

The rule change comes on the recommendation of an ad hoc committee, which earlier this year prepared a guide for lawyers on business and human rights. It was also the committee that proposed that a rule on human rights should be included in the Rules of Good Legal Practice (RGA).

The committee believes that the new rule clarifies the lawyers' ethical responsibility for assessing the risk of human rights violations in their activities, the Bar Association writes on its website.
Debate in the Supervisory Board

The brothers Hallvard and Brynjar Østgård were negative about introducing a new point about human rights in RGA, but did not succeed.

- The wording proposed is extremely broad, and has no restrictions. It is in principle strange and in my view unacceptable that legal advice should have professional consequences as long as we stay within Norwegian law, said Executive Board member, Hallvard Østgård, and continued:

- In the legal ethics requirements today, we have requirements for ethical advice, so this will be an extension.

- My clear recommendation is to adopt the proposal as it stands, replied the leader of the Norwegian Bar Association, Jens Johan Hjort.

The proposal was adopted by four votes.
- Fits the lawyer role well

The new rule is a clarification of section 1.2 which states that lawyers must "promote justice and prevent injustice".

It was lawyer Frode Elgesem, head of the Norwegian Bar Association's human rights committee, who led the ad hoc committee behind the guidance for lawyers on business and human rights. He writes in a debate post to Advokatbladet that the new rule fits the role of lawyer well.

- The new rule means that lawyers must be careful when it comes to the human rights consequences of their advice and thus contribute to increasing respect for human rights in business, he writes.

The change applies to the Bar Association's members, but has not yet been included in the Bar Association.

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