Meeting with Judge President regarding court procedures during lockdown level 4
The Judge President D Mlambo requested a meeting with stakeholders regarding court procedure during Level 4 lockdown. He requested stakeholders to deliver written representations a day before the meeting. The Gauteng Attorneys’ Association (GAA) in collaboration with the respective associations forming the GAA, as well as senior specialist attorneys, drafted representations. The letter addressed to the JP is attached hereto, for ease of reference.
Even before the meeting, certain of our concerns were addressed, for example the JP’s directive regarding taxations. This directive was posted by the PAA yesterday.
A meeting was held via the Zoom platform with the Judge President, the Deputy Judge Presidents, Chief Registrars and other stakeholders. A vast amount of concerns had to be dealt with. The JP has made the following requests to our members:
- Members are requested not to flood the courts, as the courts are still tasked with disaster management.
- Certain attorneys are insisting on appearing personally in court before presiding officers, despite the fact that these matters can be dealt with on a motion basis, and electronically.
- The JP has requested all registrars to diligently answer their emails. He has also requested attorneys not be impatient when an email is sent out of office hours and an immediate reply is not received. The backlog should be cleared by the end of this week.
- From 6 May 2020, the Pta High Court will provide new dates for unopposed motions. The Chief Registrar reminds attorneys to ensure that their matters are finally enrolled as per the practice directives.
- Rule 43 applications were supposed to have been addressed in the latest directions, but were omitted. Such applications will be addressed in future directives.
- The directives are silent regarding the concerns of advocates’ societies in relation to admissions. The JP is considering amending the directives in this regard and will also consider a provision that commissioning of documents be replaced with a certificate of authenticity to be issued by the attorney.
- The JP was made aware of inconsistencies in court as certain judges insist on personal appearances, while others comply with the regulations and hear the matters electronically. The JP insists that judges should comply with the regulations.
- Members are requested to make use of the correct email addresses as per the directives. ALL directives issued by the judiciary and Department of Justice have been posted by the PAA and may be found on our website and FaceBook page.
- Criminal appeals will be brought forward. Judges have been encouraged to approach their part-heard matters for accused on bail on a risk-approached basis.
- Civil trails and CMC’s/JCM’s started on Monday 4 May 2020. There was an IT problem and certain emails bounced back, which caused a problem with the Pretoria High Court rolls. This was addressed and the Deputy Judge President believes that from now on the rolls should be running smoothly. Members are reminded that there are still only a limited amount of judges and there is always a risk of being crowded out, despite CMC’s/JCM’s.
- Sheriffs should liaise with attorneys on the interpretation of the regulations, and whether instructions from attorneys conform with the regulations.
A further matter which was raised and discussed was the RAF where the RAF requested that all of their matters be removed from the trial rolls, as all of their members of staff have not as yet returned to work, due to lockdown. The RAF is allegedly not able to give their attorneys instructions. The JP was disturbed by this, as they are the Republic’s largest litigator and requested the RAF to engage with the attorneys’ associations. The JP will allocate a judge to facilitate this. It was also suggested that the RAF approach the Minister of Transport to obtain a directive. He further added that the RAF has a duty to report.
The remainder of our concerns will be dealt with in a future revised directive.
We are treading on new ground and there are obvious problems. The judiciary is reaching out to us to address these problems. We, as a unified profession, need to assist in finding solutions to our common problems.
The PAA advises our members to become involved for their own well-being, by using our association to speak on their behalf. Members are urged to provide us with their concerns, as well as their recommendations to address these concerns.
The letter from the GAA to the Judge President referred to above can be downloaded by clicking on the button below: