AG advocates for user-friendly civil justice system

Attorney General Mmako Abram. PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Attorney General Mmako Abram. PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Attorney General (AG), Mmako Abram is advocating for a cost effective and user friendly civil justice system to cut down on litigation costs. Abram says the system needs to accommodate all litigants effectively rather than that is plagued by high costs, and accessibility issues.

Delivering an address at the official opening of the Legal Year on Tuesday, Abram explained that there has been a review of rates for legal costs by practising attorneys in order to curb high litigation costs. “Statutory Instrument No. 1 of 2021, which effected from January 8, 2021, brought about an upward review of rates for legal costs by practising attorneys as per Order 74 of the Rules of the High Court,” she said. She emphasised that there was no doubt that such an increase had the good intentions of adjusting the old and inflation-eroded rates and that the adjustment assumed that all practising attorneys would utilise courts within their localities. The AG pointed that, for example, it was aimed at those in Gaborone would issue out processes in the Gaborone District, those in Francistown within the Francistown District. She, however, indicated that even though currently there are no legal geographical limitations concerning the jurisdiction of the courts, the situation calls for legal practitioners’ prudence and good sense, to utilise the courts in a cost-conscious and effective manner to protect the financial interests of clients.

“Just as the Chief Justice has stated in his address, we have also observed the trend that some attorneys who litigate, especially against the government, would leave courts within their locality, to file court processes in faraway places. The result of such a worrying development has invariably been that this practice is likely to increase costs in respect of mileage and accommodation for both parties, but is particularly more expensive for those litigants who are ordered to pay costs of the other party,” she said. Abram stated that it defeats the objective of controlling litigation costs in dispensing justice and that is why she is advocating for a civil justice system that is user-friendly, rather than one that is plagued by high costs, and accessibility issues. She noted that she was pleased to hear that the Chief Justice has taken note of the issue and will be engaging other stakeholders to address it. On litigation within the judiciary, Abram said the cornerstone of any sound judicial system is centred on its ability to retain public confidence and respect. “During the past two legal years, we witnessed a number of court cases that pitted some of the Lordships of this court against the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC),” Abram said.

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