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Honduras: Integrity and accountability of the legal profession

In carrying out their professional functions, lawyers must seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, and at all times act freely and diligently in accordance with the law and recognized standards and ethics of the profession. They must always loyally respect the interests of their clients.[1] 

Lawyers should be governed by codes of professional conduct. Such codes should be established by the legal profession itself through independent professional association, but may also be provided for by legislation.[2] 

Complaints against lawyers for misconduct in their professional capacity should be “processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures” and decided “in accordance with the code of professional conduct and other recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.”[3] 

The body responsible for investigating and adjudicating on allegations of misconduct by lawyers must be independent and impartial, preferably established by the legal profession itself, and ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly and following proper procedure.[4] A lawyer accused of professional misconduct must have “the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice”.[5] He or she should be entitled to notice of the complaints against him or her and have adequate time and facilities to prepare and present a defence. Any sanction against a lawyer for misconduct should be proportionate. The lawyer should be entitled to independent judicial review of the disciplinary proceedings.[6]

 

The General Assembly of the Bar Association drafted and adopted an Ethical Code for lawyers in 1966. The Ethical Code elaborates on the fundamental principles and values of the profession, the special duties of legal professionals, publications and professional confidentiality, the relation between lawyers and the authorities, fees, and the relation with other colleagues.[7]

Lawyers in Honduras are required to defend justice and ensure the respect of the law in keeping with the ethical values of the profession. Violations of these or other professional duties can result in one of the following sanctions: private admonitions before the National Board, public admonition before the General Assembly, disqualification from holding office in the Bar Association, a fine, or a temporary suspension from practice (between six months to three years).

The Court of Honor has competence to preside over and adjudicate on complaints of misconduct against lawyers. However, complaints of misconduct made against lawyers acting within the legal aid schemes are handled by the Council of the Judiciary.[8]

Currently, the ICJ does not have information on how disciplinary measures are being used against lawyers, and whether guarantees to a hearing and appeal are respected in proceedings related to complaints of alleged misconduct.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 1. See UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Principles 12-15.

    12. Lawyers shall at all times maintain the honour and dignity of their profession as essential agents of the administration of justice.

    13. The duties of lawyers towards their clients shall include:

    (a) Advising clients as to their legal rights and obligations, and as to the working of the legal system in so far as it is relevant to the legal rights and obligations of the clients;

    (b) Assisting clients in every appropriate way, and taking legal action to protect their interests;

    (c) Assisting clients before courts, tribunals or administrative authorities, where appropriate.

    14. Lawyers, in protecting the rights of their clients and in promoting the cause of justice, shall seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by national and international law and shall at all times act freely and diligently in accordance with the law and recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.

    15. Lawyers shall always loyally respect the interests of their clients.

  2. 2. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    Codes of professional conduct for lawyers shall be established by the legal profession through its appropriate organs, or by legislation, in accordance with national law and custom  and recognized international standards and norms.

    UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Report to the General Assembly, UN Doc A/64/181 (28 July 2009), paras. 53-54, 106; International Bar Association (IBA), Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession ”(Standard

    There shall be established rules for the commencement and conduct of disciplinary proceedings that incorporate the rules of natural justice.

    reserve this task for lawyers’ associations. See Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (also known as the Singhvi Declaration), ”Article

    The Bar Association shall establish and enforce in accordance with the law a code of professional conduct of lawyers, Such a code of conduct may also be established by legislation.

  3. 3. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.

     and ”29;”

    All disciplinary proceedings shall be determined in accordance with the code of professional conduct and other recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession and in the light of these principles.

  4. 4. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Principles 27 and 28 (referring to “an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, … an independent statutory authority, or … a court”). The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, in a report to the General Assembly, UN Doc. A/64/181 (28 July 2009), stated “an impartial disciplining body should be established by the legal profession”: para. 106(b), and see paras. 55 and 56 (“Ideally…established by the legal profession itself”). Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice, Articles 103-106 (referring at para. 104 to “a disciplinary committee established by the Bar Association); International Bar Association (IBA) Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession, ”Standard

    There shall be established rules for the commencement and conduct of disciplinary proceedings that incorporate the rules of natural justice.

  5. 5. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.

     Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (also known as the Singhvi Declaration), ”Article

    Disciplinary proceedings shall be conducted with full observance of the requirements of fair and proper procedure, in the light of the principles expressed in this Declaration.

     International Bar Association (IBA) Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession, ”Standard

    There shall be established rules for the commencement and conduct of disciplinary proceedings that incorporate the rules of natural justice.

  6. 6. UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, ”Principle

    Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an independent judicial review.

     Draft Universal Declaration on the Independence of Justice (also known as the Singhvi Declaration), ”Article

    Disciplinary proceedings shall be conducted with full observance of the requirements of fair and proper procedure, in the light of the principles expressed in this Declaration.

    International Bar Association (IBA) Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession, ”Standard

    There shall be established rules for the commencement and conduct of disciplinary proceedings that incorporate the rules of natural justice.

  7. 7. Ethical Code for the Legal Professionals, drafted in 30 April 1966 by the General Assembly of the Bar Association in Honduras pursuant to article 25 (c) of the Organic Law of the Bar Association in Honduras. Approved by the National Congress through decree n. 18, Official Journal N. 28,438, 13 December 1997.
  8. 8. Organic Law for the Bar Association of Honduras (Ley Organica del Colégio de Abogados de Honduras), including reform of 16 October 1997, published on 13 December 1997, official journal No. 28,438, Articles 2(c) and 40.
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