Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Law society accused of favouritism

Some of the lawyers who were recently embroiled in a legal battle with the Law Society of Botswana, after the latter issued a statement to the effect that they are not entitled to practice, have accused LSB of favouritism and witch hunting.

The lawyers allege that their names were published in the local media without even a warning, and question the credibility of LSB’s statements as other lawyers were not named and shamed even though they did not have practicing certificates.

The lawyers recently suffered a setback after High Court Judge Leatile Dambe dismissed the urgent application in which they sought recourse over the LSB’s published notice alerting members of the public that they do not hold practicing certificates and are therefore not entitled to practice.
LSB advised the public not to engage the said lawyers as their relationship would not be protected by law because the said lawyers are not LSB members.

The lawyers, who preferred not to be named, said LSB never even gave them a time frame within which they could have regularized, as they were sent e-mails on the 19th, a day before LSB made the publication.

They insist that the publication was wrongful, unlawful and harmful to their professional integrity.
They also argued that LSB jumped the gun as they cannot be disabled from practicing law in Botswana when the Registrar of the High Court has not removed them from the roll of attorneys. Section 32(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act allows the registrar to give lawyers 30 days notice to have regularized, after which their names are removed from the roll. But, the lawyers argue, the registrar had not removed them from the roll. They also argue that Section 56 of the Legal Practitioners Act clearly dictates that one ceases to be a member of the LSB only when the Registrar of the High Court has removed their names from the roll. They also accuse LSB of favouritism, as there are some lawyers who had not yet regularized, but were not named and shamed.

Practicing certificates expire on December 31 of every year, and lawyers are expected to have regularized with the LSB and with the Registrar by the beginning of the year.

The Sunday Standard is in possession of a letter, dated February 17th, in which the Registrar of the High Court Godfrey Nthomiwa was informing LSB that more and more lawyers are still submitting their applications for practicing certificates. The lawyers say the letter supports their argument as it suggests that not all lawyers had regularized by the time they were victimized, and proves that LSB was in effect favouring some lawyers over others.

“Applications for regularization start on January 1st. This is a tedious exercise that is subject to availability of other service providers like auditors. In fact LSB has never set a deadline within which all lawyers should have regularized,” they said.

After complying with the LSB regulations, the lawyers are given fidelity certificates, which they then use to apply for practicing certificates from the High Court. The lawyers allege favouritism in that LSB took action against those who had not applied for fidelity certificates, but never took action against those who had applied for fidelity certificates but had not yet obtained practicing certificates from the High Court.

“In fact, many lawyers practice without practicing certificates. That is the rot that is within our legal system. We know the names of highly esteemed legal practitioners who practice law without practicing certificates. But they were not published because they are bed fellows with LSB leadership,” they said.

They also said the Legal Practitioners Act is very ambiguous and revealed that presently there are many amendments that are being sought to try and make it more relevant and focused.

When contacted for comment, LSB Executive Secretary Tebogo Moipolai said he could not comment on the issue as it is currently sub judice.

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