High Court needs more judges – Chief Justice

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Newly appointed… High Court judges Boas Usiku and Johanna Prinsloo at their swearing-in ceremony yesterday. Photo: Contributed

Roland Routh

Windhoek-The two High Courts in Namibia, one in Oshakati and one in Windhoek need double its current compliment of judges, said Chief Justice Peter Shivute at the swearing-in of two new permanent judges of the High Court.

Chief Justice Shivute made the remarks at the swearing-in ceremony of Judges Boas Usiku and Johanna Prinsloo at the Supreme Court yesterday. He said the workload of the High Court has increased “exponentially” in the last three years and the burden judges must bear is not fully appreciated.

“The funded establishment of the High Court makes provision for only 16 permanent judges’ positions, in addition to the Judge President and the Deputy Judge President. This number is woefully inadequate to meet the increased workload of the court,resulting in greater reliance on acting judges to assist.

In short, the establishment has not kept pace with the increased demands placed on the judges,” Chief Justice Shivute remarked.

He further said this was felt even more strongly in the civil stream of the court, which at the main division (Windhoek) has been organised into a Civil Actions Stream and a Motions Stream. He said the volume and range of matters the court is required to adjudicate on is now even more varied and complex.

“When legislation is passed, which imposes additional responsibilities on the courts, consideration is not always given to what resources the courts will need to cope with the increased workload which comes with such legislation,” he stressed.

Shivute said the judiciary was concerned about the pressure under which judges are working at the moment and feels the permanent establishment of the court should reflect the reality on the ground.

For instance, the he said, there are only four judges deployed in the Actions Stream and three in the Motions Stream in the Civil Division. A judge in the Actions Stream manages about 250 files, while a judge in the Motions Stream manages about 50 files at any given moment. He added that it is an enormous responsibility, given that with the introduction of judicial case management in the High Court, the role of the judge has changed from a passive umpire to an active case manager.

Chief Justice Shivute said the situation was no better in the Criminal Stream. “Often cases take long to complete, because there are many witnesses involved, forensic laboratory results are invariably delayed, and in many cases mental observation schedulings are problematic…

“The result is that cases are often postponed and judges finalise fewer cases than is desirable.”

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