ADIR - L'altro diritto

ISSN 1827-0565

Court appointed lawyer and legal aid
Legal and sociological aspects

Grazia Macrì, 2003


This research examines the solutions that the Italian legislation arranged to the problem of legal aid to the less well off, from '900 till today.

The first point stressed by the research is the fact that legal aid, as ruled by art. 24 of the Italian Constitution, is a fundamental right of the individual. This same right has been sanctioned also by other important international charters, as the European Convention on Human Rigts and Fundamental Freedoms (Roma 4 November 1950); the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (New York 19 December 1966), or more recently by Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The research examines then the delays and the inefficiencies of the Italian legislation, as proved by 1980 a sentence of the European Court of Human Rights.

And these inefficiencies are proved also by the very history of legal aid in Italy.

All the legislative interventions to carry out art. 24 of the Constitution do not provided for a comprehensive legal discipline on legal aid. Legal aid, when available, was provided for only within single jurisdictions, till the adoption of the 2001 law n. 134.

This research includes also an empirical part, meant to study the effects of the new laws on legal aid on two groups: homeless and non-European immigrants. In order to do this the author contacted in Bologna the "Street Lawyers", an association that provides the homeless with legal aid, and the Regione Toscana ombudsman, that gives legal aid to the have-not immigrants.

What the research maintains is surprising: all of the Italian laws on legal aid proved to be very difficult, when not impossible, to use by homeless and immigrants, two groups that arte considered among the have-nots par excellence.