Necessity of acting judges explained

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-With the recent multiple appointments of acting judges to the High Court of Namibia, New Era decided to look into why Namibia need acting judges to carry out the mandate of the judiciary to dispense fair and speedy justice.

In response to enquiries the public relations department of the judiciary said that the judicial system needs to appoint acting judges for many different reasons.

For example, the reply stated if the judge president feels the nature of a case is such that all of the permanent judges would have a conflict of interest, he is entitled by law to appoint an acting judge to oversee the case.

In the recent past the judicial system appointed acting judges for extended periods, because the judge president felt that it would be disruptive to appoint new judges immediately after the introduction of case management at the High Court.

The acting judges had the necessary experience to consolidate the gains of the many reforms introduced at the High Court, which had now settled sufficiently to make it possible to replace the acting judges with permanent judges.

The judge president is allowed to appoint acting judges in terms of Article 82(3) of the Namibian Constitution and may do so as long as the need exist or arises.

The judiciary has also given serving magistrates and legal practitioners the opportunity to serve as acting judges to assess their potential for elevation to the High Court as permanent judges.

The judge president also has the right to extend the period of appointment in case an acting judge does not complete a trial. Judges are not allowed to preside over matter where there is a conflict of interest.

Should a matter involve a litigant represented by his or her firm, the judge must recuse him or herself from the case.

It is furthermore the duty of the registrar of the High and Supreme Court to ensure that such conflicts of interest are avoided at all cost.

Any litigant who feels that a judge is conflicted has the right to ask the judge to recuse him or herself from the case. Judges are not allowed to practise private law for the duration of the appointment.

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