By Pascal Kwesiga
Students who failed University and Law Development Center (LDC) exams are practicing as lawyers, Judges have said.
The judges meeting at their 16th annual conference expressed concerned about the scores of unsuspecting and desperate members of public who have been fleeced of their money by the quack lawyers.
During a session chaired by Justice Masalu Musene at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, the judges attributed the trend to the high failure rates at the LDC.
Justice Stephen Musota (head of civil division) said that commotion broke out during a session he presided over in court when a client discovered that his “lawyer” was a quack recently. “Students who have failed exams at University and LDC are practicing freely as lawyers. Please chief registrars give us a list of qualified lawyers,” he added.
Another judge who asked not be named because he is not authorized to speak for the judiciary told New Vision that three quack lawyers have filed matters before him this month alone. “If three quack lawyers can file matters in one court in just a month, it means there is a big problem and many of them must be conducting court business unnoticed,” he added.
He explained that quack lawyers were practicing more freely in up country where they can represent client for years without being noticed. “You see they have received a dose of legal knowledge from school but they have failed LDC exams. So they can dress as lawyers and they know what to say in court,” he added.
Lawyers are issued with practicing certificates each year. “One is required to have a new practicing certificate every year. There is no mechanism for us to identify a quack in court unless it has been brought to our attention,” the judge said.
Another judge said several quack lawyers who have been discovered are on the run and their cases have been dismissed. “One of them (quack lawyers) kept on saying he was handling a case at ICC in The Hague when court was looking for him,” he said.
He explained cases and submissions of the quack lawyers are usually expunged from court records when they are discovered. This means the complainant has to engage another lawyer to find the case afresh.
Justice Dr. Esther Kisaakye suggested that it should be made mandatory for lawyers to include their practicing certificates in the documents they submit in court when filing cases to cure the problem. The judges said the public can find out if a lawyer has a valid practicing certificate from Uganda Law Society, law council and office of the registrar of the high court.