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Italy (From Perspectives on Legal Aid - An International Survey, P 177-190, 1979, Frederick H. Zemans, ed. - See NCJ-72478)

NCJ Number
V Vigoriti
Date Published
14 pages
Despite a long tradition of offering legal aid as a charity for the poor, Italy still does not truly provide such legal assistance.
Civil procedures in Italy are marred by such barriers to access to justice as the complexity and formality of legal procedures, the lack of information about legal rights, the unavailability of information for the uneducated poor, and procedural costs and delays. Article 90 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that each party must initially bear his own expenses, and that the losing party is generally obliged to reimburse the adversary's expenses, including counsel fees. The Italian Constitution requires that every individual be given an opportunity to present his claims at every stage in the system, without restrictions. However, no public legal offices, exist, either national or local, to which the poor can turn to obtain legal assistance or representation in court. Proposals for creating public offices of legal assistance for the poor were rejected even before World War I. The legally and constitutionally protected right to effective access to courts is dependent on the charitable efforts of bar members, who often are reluctant to tender their services. While legal assistance is offered by religious and charitable organizations, such assistance is often a low budgetary priority. Private organizations, especially insurance companies, only offer assistance for specific cases and often expect a premium to be paid for such assistance, which is generally too high for the very poor. Trade unions and political parties also offer limited legal assistance. Prospects for reform in Italy are not promising, but if reform does become possible, the most advantageous system would appear to be that of a State-compensated private attorney system with a system of public offices staffed with salaried attorneys. Four references are provided.