The Hungarian legal community joined PILnet and the Hungarian Bar Association on Saturday 24 November in congratulating the winners of the 2012 Annual Hungarian Pro Bono Awards. Tamás Fazekas was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year and the Budapest office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges was honored as the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year at a ceremony held at the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court.
The awards are bestowed jointly by PILnet and the Hungarian Bar Association in recognition of legal professionals who have strengthened civil society through the provision of free legal services within their communities.
János Bánáti, the President of the Hungarian Bar Association, and Máté Szabó, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, presented the awards before an audience that included Hungary’s current and former Justice Ministers, Supreme Court and Constitutional Court justices, law school deans, county bar association presidents, and numerous directors of other major judicial institutions.
Fazekas, recognized as the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, is a private practitioner based in Budapest who has applied his professional expertise across the spectrum of need, from routine matters like nonprofit registration to groundbreaking litigation on behalf the underserved—all free of charge. As standard-bearer of the pro bono model for ten years, he was nominated for the award by three separate NGOs: the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; HÁTTÉR, The Support Society for LGBT People in Hungary; and a homeless rights organization, A Város Mindenkié (The City is for All, or AVM).
During the past year, Fazekas has been the pro bono force behind a number of high-profile cases. Faced with a ban on the 2012 Budapest Pride Parade, the LBGT community turned to Fazakas, who successfully negotiated a compromise with the public authorities on their behalf. Homeless rights activists count him as one of their own as he has legally guided them from the planning phases of peaceful protests to through the process of bringing a recent case that led the Constitutional Court to strike down provisions criminalizing people permanently living in public areas.
Fazekas accepting award from Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Szabó and President of the Hungarian Bar Association Bánáti.The Budapest office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges is no less committed to the improvement of civil society and the provision of pro bono legal services. In partnership with The City is for All, Weil participates in the Street Lawyer Program, a project that delivers free legal assistance on a regular basis to members of the homeless community in Budapest. When program volunteers are unable to answer a legal query on the spot, Weil provides a hotline where they can access a full range of legal resources.
Weil has also done its pro bono part in the strategic fight against homeless discrimination through a detailed analysis of social, pension, and healthcare laws. The next steps involve AVM’s campaign for housing rights, for which Weil is compiling comparative legal research that draws upon the local expertise of their offices in both the U.K. and France.
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