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Socialist Countries - Eastern Europe (From Perspectives on Legal Aid - An International Survey, P 272-287, 1979, Frederick H. Zemans, ed. - See NCJ-72478)

NCJ Number
E Wengerek
Date Published
16 pages
Statutory provisions regarding legal aid to those in need are summarized for the socialist countries, with particular attention to Poland and the Soviet Union.
Socialist law and jurisprudence refer to those who require the aid of a lawyer not as 'underprivileged' but as 'unaided,' as the principle of equality is one of the foundations of civil procedure. The guarantee of the realization of equal rights lies in the structure of the socialist civil procedure. Not only can a party without any means expect waiver of costs, but also a party with means who cannot pay the court costs may obtain a full or partial waiver of costs. Many forms of legal aid are available among the various socialist countries of Eastern Europe. An uncomplicated and inexpensive 'expiration procedure' can be introduced before a complaint is made. The transactions connected with lodging a complaint can be extensively simplified. Provisions nullifying actions can be limited where positive requirements are lacking or where procedural limitations are involved. In cases which have a variable jurisdiction it is possible to lodge a complaint where procedural limitations are involved. In cases which have a variable jurisdiction it is possible to lodge a complaint as damage suits or contract disputes. The requirement of counsel can be abolished, although the socialist Rules of Practice provide for the aid of a State lawyer to be offered to every citizen. Also social organizations can participate in civil proceedings on the behalf of a citizen. Social organizations are most clearly representative in Poland, where they are active in the form of the committee of social welfare, a woman's league which delivers aid to women, the Polish Union of the Deaf, the Society of Friends of Children, the Union of the War Wounded of the Peoples' Republic of Poland, and the Cooperative Anti-Alcohol Committee. Moreover, daily and weekly press in the socialist countries help to distribute information and legal advice. Specific statutes and provisions are cited with regard to many of the socialist countries, and 14 references are provided.