Orde van Advocaten van Aruba

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Legal system and free legal assistance

Here is a brief description of how the Aruban legal system is organized.

Aruba falls under the jurisdiction of The Common Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba ("Gemeenschappelijk Hof van Justitie van Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, en van Bonaire, St. Eustatius en Saba"), which is located in Curaçao. This Common Court of Justice is the highest court in Aruba and the court of appeals for cases that were heard in the first instance by the Court of First Instance of Aruba ("Gerecht in Eerste Aanleg van Aruba"). The Common Court sessions at regular times in Aruba.

The Court of First Instance of Aruba is the competent authority in the first instance for all civil, administrative, and criminal cases. The Court of First Instance of Aruba is located at J.G. Emanstraat 51.

Cases in the first instance are heard by a single judge, whereas cases on appeal are heard by a three-judge panel.

Parties litigating in the first instance may do so in person, i.e. without being represented by an attorney at law or another attorney. This is not recommended, however, because procedural rules have become rather complicated for someone who is not an attorney at law. When somebody lacks sufficient funds to pay for an attorney at law, they can hire a so-called pro Deo lawyer (public defender). See below.

Judgments entered on appeal by the Common Court of Justice can be appealed in cassation to the Supreme Court ("Hoge Raad") of the Netherlands, the highest judicial organ within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

If, as a resident of Aruba, you become involved in a legal dispute but lack sufficient income to pay the fees of an attorney at law, you are likely to be eligible for free legal assistance. To receive such assistance, you will first need to apply for a card entitling you to free legal assistance (CLA).

Application

To apply for free legal assistance, you first need to go to the Free Legal Assistance section of the Social Affairs Department ("Directie Sociale Zaken"), where you will be given a CLA appointment form. With this CLA appointment form, you will need to pick up certain required documents at the Civil Registry ("Bureau Burgerlijke Stand en Bevolkingsregister") and the Tax and Customs Service ("Servicio di Impuesto y Aduana"). On the date of your appointment, you will need to submit these documents – namely an extract from the Population Register to prove that you are registered as a resident of Aruba, and your income statement – to the Social Affairs Department.

Criteria

Your CLA application will be assessed by the Free Legal Assistance section of the Social Affairs Department based on the following criteria:

  • All residents of Dutch nationality as well as resident aliens may qualify for free legal assistance.
  • Conflicts between persons, companies, authorities and/or organizations, being civil law cases or person and/or family law cases, as well as assistance in criminal cases. No CLA will be issued for administrative cases (i.e. cases under the National Ordinance on Administrative Justice ("LAR"), cases related to the Social Security Bank ("SVB"), or welfare cases). In some of these cases, however, assistance may be provided by the Free Legal Assistance section.
  • First, your income and/or property will be assessed by means of, for example, pay slips and your income statement, in order to check whether you belong to the group of people with insufficient or limited means. For labor disputes, the income limit for free legal assistance is AWG 1,250 per month. For all other cases, you and your family may earn no more than the current minimum wage.
  • The substance of the case will also be assessed. With regard to a labor conflict, you will first have to turn to the Labor and Investigation Department ("Directie Arbeid en Onderzoek") for help. If the Labor and Investigation Department should fail to reach a reasonable solution and you have a fair chance of winning a lawsuit in the Court of First Instance, you may apply for a CLA after being referred by the Labor Department.

If your application is accepted, the Social Affairs Department will give you a CLA card. This card will include the name of the attorney at law who will provide the assistance. The designated attorney at law is not allowed to ask for or accept from anyone any gift, reward or compensation of any kind or value in connection with the assistance he is to provide.

Further, you should bear in mind that no CLA cards are issued with retroactive effect. Any work performed by an attorney at law before a card was issued is therefore not covered by the card. On the other hand, every citizen is free to choose the attorney at law of their preference, provided such attorney at law accepts to handle your case on a free-assistance basis.

Objection in case of rejection

If your application has been turned down, you may file a notice of objection.

Rejection on financial grounds

If your earnings are over the abovementioned income limit but your financial situation does not allow you to pay for your own attorney at law, the Free Legal Assistance Section may assist you in drawing up an application for a CLA card addressed to the Minister in charge of Social Affairs. In accordance with policy, the Minister may give a different decision on your particular financial situation and still grant you a CLA card.

If you do not agree with the rejection by the Social Affairs Department, you may address the Minister of Justice and Education in writing through the intervention of the Minister in charge of Social Affairs.

Rejection on the merits

If you do not agree with a rejection based on the merits of your case, you should not turn to the Minister in charge of Social Affairs, but rather file a reasoned notice of objection with the Social Affairs Department within 6 weeks after the date of the rejection, while sending a copy to the secretariat of the Advisory Committee on Administrative Objections ("Bezwaaradviescommissie LAR").