Free Legal Advice Centres: Presentation.

I welcome Ms Noeline Blackwell, director general, Mr. Paul Joyce, senior policy adviser, and Ms Yvonne Woods, information officer, of FLAC. The delegation will make a presentation on the recent report on the civil legal aid system. A copy of the presentation and other information has been distributed to members yesterday and I am sure they are familiar with it. I invite Ms Blackwell to list the main points of the presentation before the members ask questions.

Ms Noeline Blackwell

I thank the Chairman. We sent much information on the activities of FLAC but we will now focus on the report we issued during the summer on access to justice, Access to Justice: A Right or a Privilege?

I will provide some brief background information on FLAC. It is an independent human rights organisation and its main aim is the realisation of equal access to justice for everybody. It works through advocacy, litigation and analysis in order to achieve this aim. It seeks to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.

FLAC was formed in 1969 by law students and existed before there was a civil legal aid service in Ireland. It has a core staff but depends heavily on volunteers. In addition to research work, such as this report, FLAC organises clinics in conjunction with Comhairle and the citizens advice centres. In some 60 centres around the country, lawyers and barristers provide free legal advice through a drop-in service, with appointments if there is much demand.

FLAC no longer undertakes legal representation. When the State civil legal aid scheme came into place FLAC stopped taking many cases for people from those clinics. The cases FLAC now brings are those where we see the need to advance law reform. For the most part, those clinics run advice sessions and people are then referred to the State scheme or solicitors. The major difference between the work of FLAC and the State scheme is that FLAC runs a voluntary service on a part-time basis, mostly attached to citizens information centres. The State scheme is operated through the Legal Aid Board and runs permanent law centres. Another difference is that FLAC does not charge for its service.

In addition to legal aid work, we have expanded into other areas of pressing social need for legal intervention and reform. We have dealt with social welfare, employment law and debt and credit law. Regarding the latter, my colleague Mr. Paul Joyce was part of a delegation appearing before another Oireachtas committee on reform of the laws governing debt collection.

FLAC focuses on three areas: debt, social welfare, and what third area?

Ms Blackwell

Employment. FLAC is moving away from the area of employment because the areas of debt, consumer credit and social welfare have real and unmet needs. These are also areas that tend not to be covered by the State legal scheme.

In a new development this year we have examined how law can be better used in the public interest. The Chairman attended the conference we organised in Kilmainham in October, which discussed this subject. Lawyers from other jurisdictions, who use law differently in the public interest, attended as well as Irish practitioners who suggested how law can be used and discussed the obstacles to better use of law in the public interest. A report on this will be produced in the new year and circulated to members.

The main focus of this presentation is our report on civil legal aid, Access to Justice: A Right or a Privilege? Rather than examining the scheme, complaining about it and suggesting small changes, we thought it more important to examine why a civil legal aid scheme exists and ask this committee to consider that question when it discusses the issues on civil legal aid within its remit. If a civil legal aid scheme is necessary, the committee should also consider whether the current scheme fulfils its purpose. If it does not, and inevitably we will say it does not, can it be done in other ways and how can we improve the system? These four questions are relevant to any discussion on civil legal aid in Ireland.

I will address the purpose of the scheme before handing over to Mr. Paul Joyce and Ms Yvonne Woods to discuss various issues arising from how civil legal aid is delivered in Ireland. We may consider recommendations afterwards. We consider any legal aid scheme to have three purposes. One is to meet unmet legal need for those who cannot afford to access justice without it. The second is to vindicate the well-established human right to legal aid if it is necessary in order to access justice. The third is that the right of access to justice has been identified as a core issue in eradicating poverty and promoting social inclusion.

The scheme exists because it has been well accepted for many years that some people simply cannot access justice without legal aid. It is necessary to meet unmet legal need. The Civil Legal Aid Act is clear. Its title states it is an Act to provide civil legal aid for those of inadequate means who would otherwise be unable to access it. That is its main legislative purpose.

In the European Court of Human Rights as long ago as 1979, and in the Irish courts as recently as last December, the existence of a human right to civil legal aid if it is required to access justice was recognised. The examination of social inclusion clearly identified that unless people are permitted to access justice, with legal aid if necessary, they are excluded, marginalised and it contributes to their poverty. Our best authority for that is the EU Commission's social inclusion report which we also cite in our presentation document. It is one of the Government's goals to increase access to justice as part of social inclusion and the eradication of poverty.

That is a brief overview the purpose of any civil legal aid scheme. In our report we examined whether the current system meets those aims. Mr. Joyce will fill in some of the details on that.

Mr. Paul Joyce

I thank Ms Blackwell. Pages 4, 5 and 6 of the presentation document distributed to members contain quite a lot of detail on the delivery of the current scheme. We focus particularly on the means test to qualify for legal aid, the scope of the scheme, the types of legal issues for which legal aid is available and the contributions the applicant must pay. It is not a well perceived fact that civil legal aid costs money to the applicant. We also focus on the concentration on family law matters to the exclusion of other areas of law.

The stated purpose of the Civil Legal Aid Act is to make provision for the grant by the State of legal aid and advice to persons of insufficient means in civil cases. In response to a recent parliamentary question on legal aid, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated that the Legal Aid Board's services are available to persons of modest means and at little cost.

One of the key issues on qualification for legal aid is the means test. We argue that the means test is extremely restrictive in this day and age. To qualify for legal aid, a person must have a disposable income of €13,000 or less. In order to arrive at a figure for disposable income a number of deductions are permitted. They are listed at the top of page 4 of the presentation document. Income tax and PRSI payments are subtracted. An accommodation allowance of €4,900 annually is allowed. We feel this is not in touch with the cost of accommodation in 2005 in terms of either average mortgages or private rented accommodation. Child care expenses of up to €1,100 per child are allowed. Given the recent publicity about child care, we are all aware the cost of child care far outweighs these allowances. Allowances are also made for dependent spouse and children.

The means test was revised only once. The first means test was introduced in 1996, when the 1995 Act was introduced. The only revision was in 2002. In that revision, a number of allowances previously available on hire purchase agreement payments, interest on credit agreements and work expenses were discontinued. The income limit was increased but not substantially, given inflation in the interim period. We argue that in 2005, the means test is considerably outdated and needs to be revised immediately.

Costs of legal aid to the applicant are detailed on pages 4 and 5 of the presentation document. The cost to the applicant can be quite heavy for a person close to the upper income limit of €13,000. A person with a disposable income of €12,300 will pay more than €1,000 for legal representation.

Other concerns include the scope of the scheme. The legislation allows for a number of exclusions, which are detailed on page 5 of the presentation document. We argue that recent case law under the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms indicates that exclusions of any kind are legally dubious. By focusing on the subject matter of legal proceedings, we argue that the core objectives of meeting unmet legal need and facilitating access to justice are sacrificed.

A disturbing trend in recent years, as evidenced in the Legal Aid Board's annual reports, is the decreasing number of cases from non-family law areas. Some details are provided on page 5 of the presentation document. In 2002 there were 171 cases, 84 cases in 2003 and an extremely low number of 49 non-family law cases in 2004. Effectively, it is a service in family law, despite the fact that the purpose of the scheme is to provide legal aid and advice to persons of insufficient means in civil cases. Quite a number of civil law areas relevant to the everyday lives of people have nothing to do with family law.

Regarding the question on whether the service fulfils its purpose, we argue that the means test limit is extremely low, the subject matters covered by the scheme are narrow and people on average or below average incomes face quite substantial costs. If a person does not qualify they must bear the full cost of legal proceedings themselves. I will hand over the Ms Yvonne Woods to discuss alternative mechanisms of delivering the service.

Ms Yvonne Woods

I want to discuss briefly another approach to delivering legal aid. When we prepared our report we noticed a gap between the type of service delivered and the actual needs of the people the scheme was intended to serve. As Mr. Joyce mentioned, this is clearly reflected in the preponderance of family law cases taken by the board. This is possibly the inevitable result of a scheme which comes from central government and is controlled by a central bureaucracy. The communities are not really directly involved in the service delivery, and they are not represented on the board. Those who are setting the policy underlying the scheme and its delivery will not avail of the civil legal aid services which exist. It is interesting to note that the service has not been reassessed in its 25-year existence.

If we consider how other jurisdictions deal with this matter, there is a heavy emphasis on the idea of a community law centre. In the UK in particular the term "community law centre" is used. Other jurisdictions may use the term "law clinics" or "legal centres". In these, the community is quite involved in the delivery of the legal services they receive. For example, community representatives may be on the board or involved in the management, and they set the mandate for the centres. The centres deal with issues relevant to the communities they serve. The communities have "bought into" the centres and they accept and trust them as a result.

FLAC was involved in the establishment of Ireland's first ever independent community law centre 30 years ago in Coolock, which is now called the Northside Community Law Centre and is still going strong. It is managed by the community and deals with community issues. Since then, another centre has been set up in Ballymun. We can now talk about an independent law sector, which is only just beginning. An independent law centre has been established to deal with Traveller issues for the Irish Traveller Movement, to deal with immigration issues for the Immigrant Council of Ireland and for people living with disability, the disability legal resource was established in 2003. It has recently suspended its work due to lack of funding, although it was performing a valuable service up to then.

People provide an independent service that is not coming from direct State funds, at least not from the civil legal aid budget. The service receives some grant in aid, but people are struggling to keep the services going. These services are valuable whether specialised or general, and the communities they serve are happy with them.

FLAC is seeking more recognition from the State of the value to the country in delivering civil legal aid through the community and having community involvement. There has not been a State assessment, to our knowledge, of the value the community law centres add to their communities, nor has there been an assessment of the role these centres play in meeting the aims of the civil legal aid service. As Ms Blackwell outlined earlier, this would be the vindication of fundamental human rights, the provision of legal services to those of insufficient means, the advancement of social inclusion and the eradication of poverty. These are high and worthy aims, but we feel that civil legal aid is a way of delivering them. If a study was carried out, community law centres would be found to be one of the best available ways to achieve this goal.

In the report we also called for a partnership between the legal aid board and the independent community law sector in order to increase the range and quality of legal advice available to those of modest means who cannot otherwise access justice. I will defer to Ms Blackwell, who will discuss some of the other suggestions made in the report regarding the improvement of the effectiveness of the civil legal aid service in Ireland.

Ms Blackwell

I will be brief to allow time for questions. We thought it appropriate to consider the overall question of why we want this civil legal aid service. Government policy, Irish legislation, international human rights law and European Union policy all demand civil legal aid as part of overall access to justice. This is a reality.

How do we get from our current position, with principally a family law service, to where we should be? We came up with five principles that should be paramount and from which certain consequences flow. These are attached to the back of our submission and are contained in the fifth chapter of our report in what we call a blueprint for civil legal aid in Ireland. I will not go through them now, but they may be of interest to joint committee members for discussion purposes. They recognise that it is a fundamental human right to get legal aid if one needs to access justice. If a right is to be provided there must be a meaningful way of enforcing it, and the right must be effective. One must also recognise that the process is not merely about going to court. Access to justice is a wider issue and can often be accomplished through such processes as community and legal education.

I will now finish to allow the joint committee members to make their contributions.

I thank the delegation for the excellent presentation. The conference on public interest law and education held in the Royal Hospital, attended by Deputy Costello and I, was exceptionally successful. I congratulate the witnesses on its organisation.

I am glad of the brief opportunity for discussion on an issue that touches on a very important aspect of life. I have been here long enough to recollect the Pringle report and the slow follow-up to it. The presentation this morning highlights the need for a more extended civil legal aid scheme. What we have now essentially is a family law legal aid scheme. Anything else is virtually incidental.

The issue mainly comes down to two matters, political commitment and resources. The first issue to be addressed is financial. What is the annual Exchequer subvention in the current Estimates for civil legal aid?

Ms Blackwell

It is approximately €21 million for civil legal aid.

Criminal legal aid would clearly fall into a different category, and there is a general acceptance that the criminal legal aid system is operating reasonably well. Those entitled to criminal legal aid receive it, and nobody charged with any serious offence is not able to get a decent defence. We can be proud of this. We cannot be terribly proud of our civil legal aid system, although it is reasonably adequate from the family law perspective. Outside of that it is almost non-existent.

I accept the principle established by FLAC, and the issue then boils down to whether we are prepared to provide the necessary resources to extend the system. There is a strong case for doing so possibly on a phased basis over a period. There are probably difficulties with regard to staffing, and it may not be easy to recruit people to the civil legal aid sector. This matter may need to be examined more fully. If this is so, it would confirm my belief that an extension of the civil legal aid system should be on a phased and gradual basis.

I have a point that may come from my not being a Dublin jackeen. If a person comes from a remote rural area there is the question of accessibility. I come from west Cork, one of the more remote constituency areas away from Dublin. In any extension of the civil legal aid scheme, the matter of accessibility for those in remote areas in particular must be taken into account.

This discussion has been worthwhile. I congratulate FLAC, which preceded the civil legal aid system and is carrying out invaluable work. It has highlighted not only this issue but other matters that may not be the most popular political issues of the day. It is important that we have people prepared to carry out the research and have the commitment to present views and put them before the relevant people. I thank the delegation for attending. If nothing else, they may have set in motion a train of thought which I hope could involve in the not too distant future a commitment to a gradual development of the civil legal aid scheme.

Deputy Jim O'Keeffe is the front bench spokesperson on justice for the Fine Gael Party. Deputy Costello is the front bench spokesperson on Justice for the Labour Party.

I welcome Ms Blackwell, Mr. Joyce and Ms Woods. Have they been here before? Mr. Joyce has been here all right, but not in this context.

Mr. Joyce

I was before the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs but not before this committee.

Their visit is long overdue. Certainly the conference to which the Chairman alluded, which both of us attended, showed an enormous interest in the area of civil legal aid, both by practitioners and potential clients of a system of free legal aid.

The issue is simple enough. The delegation put it clearly in their comprehensive document, which contains recommendations. There is a right of access to the courts and the question is how one vindicates that right. It is not being vindicated adequately at present. This is so largely because there has been no review of the system for a quarter of a century to examine the circumstances of where the service should be targeted, how that might be done best, the area of eligibility levels, etc.

An overall review of the system is needed because it has gone astray in that it is dependent entirely on operating in the family courts. While civil legal aid in family law is an important area, nevertheless significant community requirements are not being dealt with. It is a serious matter that almost all the resources, energies and activities are in that area and that in recent years, FLAC's activities in all other areas have decreased dramatically. Even so, I am sure it is difficult to keep up with the number of issues in family law because a plethora of new problems on issues have come into being and have changed dramatically over the past quarter of a century.

The first issue is the review and the delegation outlined that. The idea of a community law centre seems excellent. The idea is that the needs of the community come from the community and then the service is delivered on a community basis. That means that one would deal with the totality of civil legal aid matters arising within the community. A community basis from which the requirements can flow is the only way that one can vindicate that right to access to redress. We should be looking at the urgent need to provide something along those lines.

The other issue is the eligibility levels. The old difficulties apply. Although one has a right to go into the Ritz Hotel, one must have the means to facilitate that right and have the right vindicated. Obviously when one pitches the eligibility — in the thresholds and in the means testing — at an inadequate level, then one will frustrate a great many people in need of access, not only to the courts but to legal advice and response. That is another matter that needs to be examined.

What sort of direct proposals has the delegation for increasing eligibility? If the delegation were writing the budget today, do they have figures, or even a percentage increase, for what they envisage would be required to broaden the net sufficiently to deal with people who fall between the two stools of inadequacy of income, either those in social welfare system or those outside it who do not have the means to go to court? Legal advice and litigation of any description is enormously expensive and like much else in Ireland, it is getting more expensive by the day. Perhaps the delegation would have a figure in that regard.

I am delighted to have heard the FLAC presentation. We gathered quite a bit of it from the conference we attended. I know the good work FLAC does. It is important it is facilitated in doing it and that it has a ready audience at a level of decision making where there will be a meaningful response to what it puts forward.

I welcome the members of FLAC to the committee and thank them for an interesting presentation. I thank them for and congratulate them on their work. They certainly challenge us to review the present situation and also the blueprint they provided for us to increase the funding and review how best the service can be delivered to those who need it most.

Ms Woods stated that with additional funding, FLAC hoped to increase the range and quality of the service. I wish to hear more. What areas are not being met at present where FLAC sees improvements could clearly be made if the funding provisions were in place? Does FLAC's service include access to barristers for those who need such services and advice?

Considering the proposals put before us today and that it is well over 25 years since it has been reviewed, the committee should call for a review of the scheme. Given the way the means test is applied at present, few would qualify for FLAC. It is an abhorrence to think that people who need the service to gain access to the courts and justice, cannot avail of it and are silenced because of their lack of funds and because of the lack of a review.

Deputy Finian McGrath, an Independent, represents Dublin North-Central. He is situated between Coolock and Ballymun.

I would know Coolock well.

He sits on the fence.

Never. I welcome FLAC to the committee. I would be one of many within the Oireachtas who would commend and value its work. We support its work because we see it as an important community service.

In direct response to the Chairman's comment, I would be very familiar with the work of the community law centre in Coolock. Thousands of northsiders in Coolock really appreciate the work done there.

I note that the funding issue seems to arise regularly. Why does FLAC not have regular stable funding? Is there anything that we can do to help it in that issue?

My second question relates to whether access to justice is a right or a privilege. Many Members of the Dáil would support FLAC's ethos. Has the situation regarding access to justice improved or disimproved over the past five years based on the queries FLAC has received?

In 2003 Direct Discrimination was published. It dealt with the State's provision and the dispersal policy for asylum applicants and contained a critical evaluation. What was the main issue in the evaluation? FLAC serves the unmet legal need of Travellers, immigrants and people with disabilities. Is it correct that the State has not conducted an assessment of work in this regard for more than 30 years? Many people have a positive perception of the centres and the work FLAC does. I am, therefore, surprised the State has not evaluated or assessed its works so that the funding issue can be bedded down for once and for all. One of the representatives stated,"Equal access to justice is a fundamental human right and the State and all of its organs should incorporate the recognition of this right to all aspects of its law, policy and practice". Should Members be updated or briefed on a regular basis on this basic core principle? Many of us feel, particularly in recent days, that we have gone back ten years rather than progressed. That is an important principle, about which all Oireachtas Members should be reminded.

Ms Blackwell

A number of issues were identified and we will try to handle them as a team. I refer to the question of resources. When something must be expanded, changed or improved, a cost is associated with that. There are two ways to examine costs. One is an accounting exercise. The Legal Aid Board's law centres have some of the most committed, professional, expert solicitors in the State who run an excellent service. Until this year, it was run on a shoestring with totally inadequate funding. This year, the board received a small injection of funds, which allowed the law centres to address family law, and that was helpful. If the service is expanded, it will involve additional resources, which is inevitable. However, the service is grossly underfunded and overburdened. The cost of not doing this work must also be examined. By not doing the work, massive areas of legal need remain unmet, people's rights are not vindicated by the State and the cost of social exclusion and poverty increases. These are large costs when one examines the bigger picture.

It is interesting in that context to address the issue of the right of access to justice. My favourite analogy in this regard is if I cut my hand, I can see evidence of it. If I cannot get to a hospital, my right to access a health service when I absolutely need it is not being met. Similarly, if my child is not able to get into a school, his or her right to education is not vindicated. Nothing happens if a person's right to justice fails to be vindicated. He or she disappears further into the woodwork because he or she cannot express that right. It is, therefore, one of the easiest rights to forget, which is why we would welcome the opportunity to continually remind people it is a core, fundamental right and it is recognised in Government policy as crucial. As Deputy Jim O'Keeffe stated, the criminal legal aid scheme works in the sense that if somebody needs criminal legal aid to access justice and vindicate his or her rights, he or she gets it. Civil legal aid is different.

Mr. Joyce

I refer to Deputy Costello's question on proposals about the means test. One of the case studies we ran at the launch of the report was to examine the position of someone on the average industrial wage and his or her potential qualification under the means test. The average industrial wage is €31,000. A person with a dependent spouse and two children would fall approximately €6,000 short. His or her disposable income is approximately €19,000 for a means test of €13,000. That is a considerable shortfall. The report does not contain specific proposals on figures but a substantial increase would be required to bring people on average earnings within the remit of civil legal aid.

The other issue is if one does not qualify, one does not qualify at all, similar to the manner in which medical card applications were assessed previously. If one's disposable income is €12,995, one qualifies but if it is €13,005, one does not. In one scenario, therefore, one's legal services are subsidised but in the other scenario, one must pay the entire cost. It may be worthwhile to examine the notion of a partial cost on a sliding scale. For example, the general practitioner only medical card was introduced recently and, depending on the bracket one's incomes falls into, perhaps part of the cost of the legal services one needs might be subsidised.

How would that be done?

Mr. Joyce

It would have to be done on the bands of income and percentages. That would involve——

The solicitor would agree to do the job for a person and he or she would agree to pay a percentage of the fees, depending on the result of the case.

Mr. Joyce

Yes, depending on the band into which his or her disposable income falls. It is only a proposal for which no costings have been done. It is a suggestion.

It has possibilities.

I refer to the question asked by Deputy Hoctor regarding areas into which extra funding could be invested. She also asked whether barristers are available as part of the Legal Aid Board service. If a person qualifies for legal aid and a barrister is needed, a barrister has to be found but, as it is a family law service, we must think about the many people who will never have access to a barrister because they do not qualify for civil legal aid.

With regard to funding, the emphasis should be on an approach that would involve the community. For example, a tentative start has been made to co-operation between the independent law centre sector and the Legal Aid Board in Ballymun. The solicitor in Ballymun is on secondment form the board and he is doing an excellent job. The centre also had the services of clerk from the board until recently on a part-time basis. The clerk assessed people who called in seeking legal information and advice as to whether they would be eligible for the board's services. Co-operation was developing between them and it was working well. It was suspended recently because the Legal Aid Board's own services were shored up and the clerk had to return to the law centre.

FLAC would like more funding to go into the community sector and independent law centres so that the community has a buy-in to the services they receive and the centres know what issues they want raised and what is happening in the community. The community has an element of control, which currently is not the case outside the independent law centres. We would like to see a shoring up of that area and co-operation between the State service and the independent service. That is our main focus.

Mr. Joyce

Deputy Hoctor also asked about the range and kind of services to which legal aid should be extended. Legal services should be provided for core issues such as employment cases and appeals, social welfare appeals, debt cases, which are an increasing problem in society, and housing issues. The Legal Aid Board handles debt cases, but——

What type of housing issues does it handle?

Mr. Joyce

It handles cases such as evictions from private rented accommodation. These are core issues for people on low incomes.

Ms Blackwell

I wish to add to that. When we were preparing the report, we found that family law predominated. There were two main reasons for this. Some areas are excluded by law, for example, cases involving an interest in property, tribunals or defamation. Also, in practice, the Legal Aid Board's policy excludes other areas that could be covered because it predominantly covers family law cases. Therefore, there is scope, even without any change in legislation, to increase what the board does in its centres.

The Coroners (Amendment) Bill, which looks at increased powers for coroners, is going through the Dáil and Seanad. The committee might be interested in noting that no legal aid is available for people who must attend at coroners' inquests, which are terribly complicated. Many lawyers will not deal with them because they are so complicated in terms of the law. People who must take part in the inquest or the families of the subject of an inquest cannot get legal aid. This is the sort of area that needs attention.

Will Ms Blackwell put forward the main points she wants to get across to us as we must finish before the Order of Business comes up in the Dáil?

Ms Blackwell

We may need to return to Deputy Finian McGrath on some of the points he made. With regard to direct discrimination and the report we did on it, the critical issue is much the same as the one with which we have just dealt, namely, that we are looking at sectors of the community who are denied their rights because of the lack of provision in place for them. The current provision of civil legal aid is insufficient to meet the unmet legal need, to vindicate people with right of access to justice or to allow people become more included in society.

There are ways around this. They are not all expensive ways that involve an expansion of a bureaucracy. That is part of it, but it can also be done cleverly through community law, legal education and by making the service more accessible by phone or through the Internet. This issue is not getting the attention it needs and that is the reason we welcome the opportunity to attend this committee meeting and raise it. We are approaching it from the non-governmental side. We only run a side service. We are not really supposed to exist but we must continue until such time as the State takes on its duty of vindicating people's rights and providing a service that gives effective access to justice.

I thank Ms Blackwell, Mr. Joyce and Ms Woods for attending today. They have given us a further insight into what FLAC does and I hope their attendance will put a greater public focus on the work they do and the objectives they have set for us and them, and that as a result, justice will become more accessible to everyone.

I wish the delegation a happy Christmas. I also wish all the members of the committee a happy Christmas. I thank Ray Treacy, committee clerk, Danny Greham and Lauren Theodoulou for their work and effort during the year. I hope they have a happy and restful Christmas because there is much work to do when we return in January.

The joint committee adjourned at 10.25 a.m. sine die.