On August 1 the Belgrade Bar Association published a letter on its website signed by its President, Slobodan Soskic, asserting that Dragan Karanovic, Senior Partner of Karanovic & Nikolic, had been removed from the table of registered lawyers of the Bar.
According to the letter, Karanovic was expelled based on Article 83 1/9 of Serbia's Law on Advocacy because he was enrolled as March 7, 2016 in the court register of the Municipality of Sarajevo. CEE Legal Matters reached out to both Karanovic and Soskic for comment.
Karanovic, not surprisingly, contested the Belgrade Bar’s decision, which he attributed to the Bar's "abusing a vague regulatory provision.” He explained that the only statement by the Bar that had merit was “the trivial fact" that he had been a Director of a Bosnian company for 20 days in March this year. He claimed that he is “still in all formal and practical respects a member of the Bar" and said he was never expelled. Karanovic declared that the decision of the Belgrade Bar "is only one illegal step in the illegal process, a process that we expect will not be carried through.” He said that the Bar, ultimately, is “an illegally-formed body, given that the representatives that present themselves as the Board are not elected in a legal manner that passed a decision in a process without due process which is, in its merits, illegal.” Karanovic reported that he would be taking steps to remedy the situation: “We will file an appeal with the Serbian Bar Association and expect the decision to be annulled in a short period.”
In terms of the statements published on the Association’s website Karanovic said: “I realize that there are some letters on the site of the Bar but we will take steps to find remedies to address this abuse and we expect support from regional and European Bar Associations” — support he argued would arise out of his and his firm’s “over 20 years of practice where I think we confirmed the highest standards and a stance on moral integrity.” He also noted that he has “already received a lot of support from other law firms and lawyers, in particular young lawyers who see this as a signal for concern for professionals in the field.” Karanovic concluded “I am not personally targeted as much as I think this is more about what we stand for.”
“Looking at the bigger picture,” Karanovic said, "there are ongoing disputes between the Boards of the Serbian Bar and the Belgrade Bar, which saw long campaigns carried out by the Belgrade Bar trying to impede the progress of the legal practice.” “They simply do not recognize that the nature of firms has evolved and there are commercial lawyers in the market now as well who are just as much legal professionals as say criminal lawyers,” Karanovic added. He also noted that this move by the Belgrade Bar might be part of a pre-election campaign, as elections are due to take place this Autumn.
In terms of what he expects after things settle down, Karanovic said: “We will invest more of our time and effort to engage into changes of the regulations so that they support the highest standards of integrity — which I do not feel is the current situation of the Belgrade Bar. We hope the elections will be a starting point in that direction and we certainly want to talk to all those involved in the legal profession to organize our profession in a way that gives all of us a way of working in the market.”
Soskic did not respond to CEE Legal Matters’ multiple invitations to comment.
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