The Eduardo Morgan Foundation (Funda Morgan) is the organization through which the Morgan & Morgan Group channels its activities related to corporate social responsibility. One of the Foundation’s objectives is to offer free legal counseling to low-income individuals. For this reason, in 2006 Funda Morgan formalized a project to provide these services.
At the same time Funda Morgan was working on the aforementioned project, Fundamujer (foundation for the protection of women’s rights) ceased to operate. Fundamujer therefore asked Funda Morgan to consider assuming responsibility for all pending and ongoing Fundamujer cases.
As these events coincided, and well aware of the significant vacuum in Panama’s society the loss of Fundamujer would represent, Funda Morgan agreed to take charge of all ongoing legal processes, as well as part of Fundamujer’s personnel and assets.
In this manner, FUNDALCOM formally began operating on January 16, 2007, in an office located on the 1st floor of the building in which the Colegio Nacional de Abogados de Panamá (National Bar Association of Panama) is also located. FUNDALCOM’s personnel consist of one lawyer, a legal assistant, a social worker and a secretary.
II. II. Justification for the existence of FUNDALCOM
One of the main responsibilities of a nation state based on the rule of law is to guarantee its citizens an administration of justice system based on egalitarian access, expeditious due process, and impartial decisions.
Access to an administration of justice system understood as “Subjective Public Law” encompasses overcoming obstacles such as not knowing, not exercising, or not having the necessary means to ensure longstanding and well-established constitutional rights are enforced and respected.
The term “egalitarian” refers to the how equal access -- to the law, to the courts and to the guarantees enshrined in the constitution – is enjoyed by both citizens of ample or sufficient economic means as well as by the less fortunate citizens of our society.
Expeditious due process refers to the speediness and efficiency with which legal processes are managed; in turn, impartial rulings and verdicts are instrumental in engendering and maintaining the judicial system’s overall credibility. This is why we believe FUNDALCOM is fully justified.
Indeed, although civil society and the state have made some progress in terms of providing free legal assistance through the universities, the Public Legal Defense Institute of the Judicial Branch, the National Bar Association of Panama, and other non-governmental organizations, these efforts have proven to be insufficient and do not meet the growing demands of a needy population which requires a superior justice administration system in terms of quality, efficiency and cost.
An equal-access organization offering legal assistance and representation services, FUNDALCOM is an innovative and purpose-specific response to the problem outlined above which strengthens the administration of justice system, democracy, and public governance, in turn promoting a culture of peace through the provision of alternate methods of conflict resolution.
In addition, FUNDALCOM will also provide a vehicle where future professionals in the fields of law, social work, and psychology can practice and hone their skills. In keeping with the spirit of solidarity and social responsibility we all share as part of Panamanian society, it will also serve as a source of professional practice for future litigation lawyers willing to provide legal services on a pro-bono basis.
To contribute to the development of a society with ever-higher standards of social justice by being the instrument through which the more vulnerable segments of our society can access the justice administration system, in particular in respect of sensitive issues such as family rights and domestic violence.
By means of its active participation in the construction of a society with social justice, and through the resolution of social conflicts, the formation of citizens prepared to live in democracy, and the promotion of a culture of peace, to be a respected legal assistance foundation, recognized by both the national and international communities.
V. SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
1. To provide free, high-quality legal counseling to citizens with monthly incomes below $500.00. Services provided will include orientation, counseling and representation in legal proceedings related to family and domestic violence, with emphasis on the use of alternate conflict-resolution methods.
2. To offer law students an opportunity to complement and strengthen the juridical formation provided by their universities, through professional practice which, in addition to fulfilling one of the requirements needed to obtain their law degrees, will expose them to the social responsibility aspects of their chosen professions.
3. To allow professionals in different careers, in particular law, whether active or retired, the opportunity to participate in the development and consolidation of a democratic society with social justice.