Saturday, December 3, 2022

Advocate irritates judge, client

An advocate representing an attorney who has been refused issuance of a practicing certificate by the Registrar irked a judge when he could not explicitly present the redress he sought from court.

Shaking his head in disbelief from time to time, a peeved Judge Steven Gaongalelwe suspended the proceedings for a quarter of an hour so that Peter Ohalloran could rethink what exactly he was seeking from the court.

It was a bad day for Ohalloran.

As the court briefly adjourned, Advocate Ohalloran was hauled over the coals by his own client, Chris Du Plessis, an attorney who has been in practice in Botswana for more than three decades.
Through an urgent application, Du Plessis has arraigned the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) before Lobatse High Court, seeking the court to order that he be issued with a practice certificate.

This follows hot on the heels of the LSB intention to approach the court to have him struck off the roll on the one hand while, on the other, the Registrar refused to issue him with a practicing certificate.

The non- issuance of a practicing certificate was a sequel to a letter written to the Registrar by LSB, relating to the adverse findings of Du Plessis’ audited and forensic reports of his trust account which, by his own admission, have been “less than perfectly kept”.

Ohalloran told the judge that refusing Du Plessis a practicing certificate was tantamount to taking the lifeblood of his law firm.

“The firm grinds to a halt. What can be devastating to find yourself as a legal practitioner without the means of an income? Mr Du Plessis has family; he has staff to pay salaries. He is unable to practice. It is as good as being struck off,” said Ohalloran.

The advocate said it was not as if Du Plessis was dishonest by having “less than perfectly kept” books so he cannot be refused a practicing certificate, adding that his client was implementing a new “costly electronic legal system” to have a proper record of books.

Judge Gaongalelwe did not buy the story and put it to Ohalloran that if the court went by that, it would nullify the legal provisions to which Ohalloran replied:”Issue him a fine or a warning. Let him practice for a while.”

LSB submitted that there was no urgency in Du Plessis court application since he knew about the adverse findings of the reports since 26 August 2010 but did not act. Also that, on 28 January 2011, the LSB informed Du Plessis of its intention to approach the court to have him struck off the roll.

“Mr Du Plessis knew of the reviewable decisions by the Law Society. He ought to have started working towards getting the matter reviewed. He has done nothing. It was incumbent upon him to take steps to make sure that the decision is reviewed,” lawyer Reuben Kamushinda submitted before the judge.

The case continues.

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