Monday, May 16, 2022

Lawyers petition Chief Justice over judges’ misconduct

The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has resolved to lodge a formal complaint to Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo against some judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal.
At a special meeting held on 18th January this year, the LSB expressed concern that the conduct of some judges was bringing disrepute to the High Court and Court of Appeal.

The petition, which is yet to be handed to the Chief Justice, revealed that scores of lawyers have resorted to forum shopping in a bid to avoid appearing before judges who are wont to embarrass and ridicule them.

Forum shopping is a process by which a plaintiff chooses among two or more courts that have the power — technically, the correct jurisdiction and venue — to consider the plaintiff’s case. This decision is based on which court is likely to consider the case most favourably. In some instances, a case can properly be filed in two or more courts. It often involves weighing a number of factors, including the reputation of the judge in the particular court.

The newly appointed LSB Chairman, Lawrence Lecha, confirmed the meeting but would not discuss details.

“Yes the meeting was held on 18th January. We discussed a number of issues, which are confidential. But I can confirm that we have decided to consult and engage the Chief Justice on the matter that you raised. We have taken a stand but we don’t want to prejudge our stance by making a public pronouncement through the media. It is not for public consumption, it is a matter that we would like to resolve with the judges,” he said.

A source revealed that: “as part of the petition, the LSB will ask Chief Justice Dibotelo to break the current alleged stalemate between the bench and the bar which has resulted in lawyers resorting to forum shopping”.

While welcoming an apology from Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Seth Twum, following allegations of professional misconduct levelled against him by criminal lawyer Busang Manewe, the LSB resolved to engage Dibotelo on what it calls abuse of lawyers by some judges.

Manewe confirmed in a brief interview that Justice Twum had apologised personally to him.
The fall out between the two men arose from a case in which Manewe was challenging the sentence of a rape convict; and Twum had asked in open court whether the former had ever committed rape before.

Manewe had also made a formal complainant to Dibotelo and Court of Appeal Judge President Ian Kirby about the conduct of Twum and also called for his (Twum) removal from office as a judge of the Court of Appeal.

It is understood that the LSB also intends to take up the matter with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Efforts to get comment from JSC Secretary and Registrar of the High Court Godfrey Nthomiwa were unsuccessful as his mobile phone rang answered.

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