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Incompetent lawyers responsible for case backlog – Judge

By Andrew Ssenyonga

Added 27th September 2019 10:49 AM

Mugambe, however, acknowledged that they are also some judicial officers and corrupt judicial support staff, who contributes to case backlog in the way they adjudicate cases and the process of filling.

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High Court judge Lydia Mugambe (second left) displays the report launched by Justice Zion Ntaba from Malawi during the Human rights conference at Makerere University on September 25 2019. Left is Elizabeth Afori the Legal officer Initiative for Social and Economic Rights. Photo by Wilfred Sanya

Mugambe, however, acknowledged that they are also some judicial officers and corrupt judicial support staff, who contributes to case backlog in the way they adjudicate cases and the process of filling.

High Court Judge Lydia Mugambe has attributed case delays to largely incompetent lawyers who do not take time to study cases they are handling.

“There are some lawyers who don’t understand any concept of the economic, social and cultural rights and they delay court proceedings from progressing and others represent people they don’t know,” she explained.

Mugambe, however, acknowledged that they are also some judicial officers and corrupt judicial support staff, who contributes to case backlog in the way they adjudicate cases and the process of filling.

She noted that the incompetence of some judges and lawyers was the main cause of inordinate delay in dispensation of justice, stressing that many keep on lingering with cases instead of deciding on them.

“Sometimes the bar and bench are responsible for delay in providing justice to people, despite receiving hefty salaries. Some judicial officers join hands with lawyers, and exploit the poor litigants,” Mugambe explained.

She was responding to a 2019 report titled; ‘Meaningful access to justice for the economic and social right’ done by Initiative for Social Economic Rights (ISER) at Makerere University on Wednesday.

This was during the 6th annual National Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entrenched on the theme ‘strengthening access to justice for economic, social and cultural rights.’

The report indicates that it takes the Supreme Court, an average of 758 days and the court of Appeal, 1205 days to dispose of appeals and constitutional matters in the Court of Appeal.

“In 2017/18, the High Court took an average time of 549 days to dispose of cases,” reads the report in parts.

Mugambe emphasized that the delay in the provision of justice is proving cancerous; and this happens because some judges, lawyers, and judicial support staff are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

“People are crying for justice and others die without getting justice. Many lawyers come to courts not knowing the people they represent and this also halts the smooth process to justice,” she expounded.

Mugambe further attributed the delays in the disposal of cases to some corrupt judicial support staff.

“Sometimes the staffs delay court proceedings as they solicit money from the victims,” she explained.

She urged all judicial officers to work tirelessly to give the judiciary it’s rightful, dignified status.

Mugambe appealed for a united effort between the civil society and government on the sensitization of the Economic, Social and Cultural rights to both the public and judicial officials.

The report also revealed that as a result of inadequate human and financial resources, there has been a low case clearance rate, lack of enforcement, and abuse of orders and judgments, thus undermining the functioning of judicial and adjudicatory mechanisms.

In her keynote address, the Judge of the High Court of Malawi, Zione Ntaba called for the continued litigation on the issue of reducing violations and discrimination.

“Protection of human rights requires that we have fair and functioning justice institutions that will promote and protect the human rights of people as prescribed in laws and conventions,” Ntaba explained.

The visiting judge said the judiciary is oath-bound to defend the Constitution; and requires that congressional enactments be judged by standards of the Constitution.

“The Judiciary has the duty of implementing the constitutional safeguards that protect individual rights. When the government acts to take away the fundamental right of citizenship, the safeguards of the Constitution should be examined with special diligence,” she stressed.

Salima Namusobya, the executive director of ISER advised the judiciary to promote broader use of Amicus to enhance justice.

“It is a nascent phenomenon that has been used in a few cases but has the potential to enhance access to justice,” she said.

She said the meeting was aimed at taking stock of access to justice policies, law, and mechanisms and how these were impacting on access to justice for victims of ESCRs violations and abuses.

“It is hoped that the two-day conference contributes to ensuring that the access to justice mechanism in Uganda addresses the needs of victims of ESCRs violations and abuses,” she noted.

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