CHIEF Justice Sir Albert Palmer has called on judicial officers and legal practitioners to avoid unnecessary delays of cases.
He said this is to avoid clogging up the court lists and delaying of delivery of judgments.
“Make 2020 a year when cases can be disposed of promptly and not prolonged unnecessarily, clogging up the court lists and delaying the delivery of judgements,” Sir Albert said at the opening of the 2020 legal year last Thursday.
He said the core duty of the courts is to hear and dispose of cases timely.
“Its’ ability and capacity to do so efficiently and effectively is ultimately what matters to the litigants, public and the court.”
Sir Albert said he noted the criticisms and concerns expressed by both the Attorney-General and the President of the Bar Association and call on all judicial officers to prioritize decision making in the first half of the year.
“All outstanding judgements will need to be seriously addressed to ensure that these are delivered promptly.
“I also call on all legal practitioners to step up their support and commitment to the court this year.
“…….reduce and avoid unnecessary adjournments and or interlocutory applications which only prolong a matter in particular on logging cases,” Sir Albert added.
He further added that there are too many unnecessary applications for interlocutory injunctions which have little impact on the ultimate outcome of a case other than more delays.
He said counsel and litigants should be looking towards moving a case forward timely to ensure a just outcome and assisting the court to reach a decision quickly.
“This will require not only the application of appropriate legal skills, knowledge and understanding of a case but due diligence and alertness on the part of counsel.
“There are simply too many unnecessary interlocutory applications which are slowing the timely disposal of a case down.”
Sir Albert said a legal practitioner’s duty to his client must be balanced with his overriding duty towards the court and the law.
“It is improper and unethical for a lawyer to accede to his client’s request when he knows that it is contrary to the law, procedure and good practice.”
Sir Albert conceded that part of the problem is caused by shortage of judicial officers who are overworked and had to take on larger than normal workload of cases.
He said steps are however being taken to address these in the High Court with the engagement of the first local lady Judge, Justice Maelyn Bird last year.
He said another new judge from Australia will join Justice Bird to assist with the hearing of Election Petitions and civil matters.
Attorney General, John Muria Jnr said whilst the issue of delays and back logs continue to occur, he also urged the Judiciary and Counsels to conclude matters without the need for excessive and unwanted delays.
“However, it is also prudent that I also acknowledge the dedication and efforts by the Judiciary and the Bar Association in 2019 in progressing a lot of cases to finality,” he said.
President of Bar Association Eran Soma said whilst he raised the issue of outstanding judgments, he is also mindful of the fact that due consideration of a case takes precedence over productivity.
He said last year alone, 27 election petition cases were filed and this consequently overwhelmed the judges’ timeline or diaries and significant court resources given the time frame within which each election petition case should be completed.
“In any event, your Lordships must come to a carefully considered decision in each case (whether it be election petitions or otherwise) in keeping with the law and merits of the case and importantly within a reasonable time.
“All of us here today should be all too familiar with the saying “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”.
“I however take comfort and am optimistic given the rate of disposal of election petition cases so far with limited resources, we should have positive times ahead,” Soma said.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN