Three judges of the Supreme Court on Friday removed from the court roll an appeal application to strike a local lawyer from the register of legal practitioners, due to “a lack of diligence, care and application” by members of the Disciplinary Committee of Legal Practitioners (DC).
Acting judges of appeal Kate O’Regan, Vernanda Ziyambi and Paddington Garwe concluded that the DC did not provide an adequate explanation for the substantial delay in lodging the appeal.
The appeal was against a majority decision in the High Court to suspend lawyer Lucious Murorua for a period of 12 months from practicing law, which was in turn suspended for a period of three years.
He was found guilty of unprofessional, dishonourable, or unworthy conduct by the DC – which decision was upheld by the High Court. It was against the order of the High Court to only put him on a suspended suspension that the DC appealed to the Supreme Court. They asked the court to either strike him from the roll of legal practitioners or to suspend him from practicing law for a period of two years.
While the High Court ruling was made already on June 29, 2012, the appellants (DC) failed to lodge an appeal in the prescribed time and in the end only managed to file the appeal and a condonation for late filing more than a year later.
The reasons for the late filing was, according to the DC, because it was not fully constituted, as the terms of office of two of its member had expired. However, when the DC was fully constituted and able to take a decision, it took them a further eight months to file the condonation and notice of appeal.
This, according to the judges of appeal, was “a flagrant lack of urgency,” on the part of the DC. They said that the DC, which is made up of four legal professionals, who must be aware of the rules of the court should be “punctilious” in ensuring that the rules are followed and that appeals are prosecuted promptly and in accordance with the rules.
They further said the DC’s disregard for the rules of the country’s Supreme Court constitute a flagrant non-compliance with its rules. The DC has a mandate to ensure that legal practitioners act with integrity in carrying out their professional tasks and to discipline those that fail to meet this high standard, the judges noted.