News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
25 Jun 2018
6:05 am

Tardy state attorneys to foot bill for court delays

Ilse de Lange

High court judge president also orders they should explain why they should not be reported to the Law Society.

Court. File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

Attorneys who conduct litigation at a snail’s pace and flout strict high court directives aimed at making justice more accessible to all South Africans might have to pay for the delays from their own pockets in future.

Mpumalanga High Court Judge President Francis Legodi became so annoyed with cases on the civil roll either being settled at the very last minute or unnecessarily delayed that he last week granted a series of court orders depriving attorneys of their day fees.

In one instance, he granted a personal punitive costs order against a state attorney acting for the minister of police. He also put attorneys and an advocate on terms to file affidavits to explain why their conduct should not be reported to the Law Society and the Bar Council.

“The practice of allowing litigation to run at a snail’s pace and to the convenience of practitioners, but at a huge expense to their clients, ought to be arrested and brought to a halt. “[The] time has come for those working for the state to be made accountable for their actions.

“The notion that legal costs can be incurred with impunity because it is not for those who work for public institutions to pay costs must stop.”

Legodi said Ssction 34 of the constitution stated that everyone had the right to have any dispute that could be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court or another independent tribunal.

“Any delay in finalisation of cases resulting in unnecessary costs of litigation … impedes on a fair public hearing. As it is said, justice delayed [is] justice denied,” he added.

Despite more than 30 judgments dealing with the same subject, every week more cases on the civil roll were settled on the dates of trial or postponed because the directives were ignored and, in most cases, the parties’ legal representatives were at fault.

The court was determined to deal with defaulters and enforce the directives, with serious consequences if appropriate, said Legodi.

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