Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Law Society suspends consideration of complaints against lawyers

Following a High Court judgement in a matter involving a Gaborone lawyer, the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has indefinitely suspended the consideration of complaints. The indefiniteness is a result of the Society appealing that judgement at the Court of Appeal.

In the case in question, Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang found that the Society’s Disciplinary Committee had acted unlawfully in finding attorney Tebogo Sebego guilty in a matter in which the latter had been brought before it for professional misconduct. Between 2007 and 2009, Sebego represented Agnes and Michael Brook in a number of cases but in 2008, the latter reported him to LSB for professional misconduct. The allegations were that Sebego had defrauded the couple and had been negligent while charging legal costs for court appearances he had never made. When the amicable settlement that the LSB had hoped for didn’t materialise, it took it upon itself to resolve the matter using its internal disciplinary processes.

LSB’s disciplinary proceedings are conducted in terms of the Legal Practitioners’ Act. According to the Act, complaints of professional misconduct against a legal practitioner are to be referred to the DC of the Law Society. On receipt of the complaint, the Committee investigates and if satisfied that a prima facie case of misconduct has been established, must either refer the latter to the LSB Council if the misconduct warrants suspension or disbarment or it may impose what it considers appropriate disciplinary function. In Sebego’s case, the outcome was a guilty verdict and a fine of P7500. It was then that the lawyer successfully sought the intervention of the High Court asking it to overturn such verdict. Kebonang ruled that the Disciplinary Committee had found Sebego guilty without investigating him.

With the court having ruled the relevant provisions of the Legal Practitioners’ Act (Sections 50 and 51) unlawful, LSB finds itself hamstrung because the ball is not in its court.

“The Disciplinary Committee and the Council of the Law Society have both resolved to suspend all considerations of complaints until the Court of Appeal has determined the matter and/or the Legal Practitioners Act is amended. Regrettably, both processes above are outside the control of the Law Society and therefore, no estimation can be made as to the duration of this suspension. The suspension is therefore until further notice. The Society will however continue to receive complaints during this period,” writes LSB’s Executive Secretary, Tebogo Moipolai, in a letter to all members.

 

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