The introduction of reforms in the judiciary has been lauded as a welcome development that has increased efficiency and turnaround time in the government courts. The newly introduced reforms, which include the specialized courts, the Court Record Management System (CRMS) and the Judicial Case Management (JCM), have been hailed as a success by both attorneys and members of the public.
Newly appointed Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo, and Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo have both expressed satisfaction with the success of the initiatives, saying they have reduced the turnaround time for cases in the courts.
“The backlog of cases reduced from 10 683 in February 2008 to under 3 000 in September 2009. Specialized courts like small claims
courts and stock theft courts have been added to the existing structures to speed up disposal of cases,” Matambo told parliament on Monday.
A recent stakeholders conference, whose sole purpose was to review the performance of JCM unanimously agreed that the JCM has had a positive impact on the judiciary’s operations.
The introduction of the specialized courts, among them the small claims courts, stock theft courts, family courts, and traffic courts have also been welcomed as pertinent to the effective operation of the judiciary.
The small claims courts were introduced in August 2009, starting with pilot centers in Francistown and Gaborone presided over by magistrates dedicated to these courts. The courts were introduced to settle disputes on amounts not exceeding P10, 000. The legislative framework of these courts is simplified and informal so that they are more accessible to the ordinary person, and attorneys are barred by law from appearing in these courts.
The Gaborone small claims court has, since its creation in August 2009, issued 2246 letters of demand and registered 1002 cases by 31 December 2009.
The Francistown court has since its inception in August 2009 issued 2163 letters of demand and registered 495 cases up to December 2009. During the same period, the Gaborone court completed 782 cases with 102 cases being settled before registration, while Francistown completed 350 cases and 68 cases were settled before registration. This in percentage terms represents 78% for Gaborone and 70% for Francistown.
JCM was introduced as a tool to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. It is basically a system where the pace of litigation is controlled by the Judge and not by the litigants. Under this system, cases are assigned to a Judge immediately upon registration; the judge then takes charge of the case throughout its life.
“So far JCM has largely been a success. Its introduction has resulted in a marked increase of cases that are being settled out of court. So far, it has been well received by the litigants, especially lawyers, who have seen most of their cases being resolved faster,” said Dibotelo.
As at 31st December 2009, the judiciary had completed a total of 14,046 cases leaving a balance of 1,582 cases and in Francistown they have completed 5322 cases leaving the balance of 1398 cases. This represents, on average, a disposal rate of 85% for 2008 and 2009 compared to 65% during the same period of 2006 and 2007 before case management was introduced in the High Court.
“The modest success of JCM in our country has aroused a lot of interest from the neighbouring countries who have begun to knock on the doors of the Chief Justice to find out how they may be assisted to reduce huge backlogs in their judiciaries,” Justice Dibotelo reveled.