KAMPALA – The President of Uganda Law Society, Ms Pheona Wall Nabaasa, on Thursday October 1, paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera at his chambers at the Court of Appeal.
Ms Wall who was accompanied by members of the ULS Governing Council, congratulated Justice Buteera on his appointment as DCJ. She reported that the ULS are very confident and excited because his coming to the Court was a “message of hope.”
Ms Wall went on to explain that they sought to meet the DCJ and discuss strategies to strengthen linkages between the lawyers’ body, the Court of Appeal and Judiciary at large.
The DCJ commended Ms Wall and her team for reaching out to the Court. He welcomed them as stakeholders in the administration of justice. He pointed out that as officers of court, everyone has a role to play and promised to revive stakeholders’ meetings at the Court of Appeal. This he said, would enable the Court perform better.
Justice Buteera urged the lawyers to embrace the initiative of Appellate Mediation which is being nurtured at the Court. He promised to engage the lawyers so that they could participate in the drafting of the Appellate Mediation Rules and the review of Court of Appeal Rules.
On the performance of the Court, the DCJ shared that the Court has 14 Justices who have to grapple with a caseload of more than 7,000 cases. He said that the impact of this manpower shortage is felt in the output of the court. Justice Buteera called for the recruitment of more Judicial Officers to match the growing population and the overwhelming justice needs.
“From Kachumbala to Bukedea, Kumi, Soroti, Ngora, Kaberamaido Nakapiripirit, Kotido, Abim, Napak, Moroto and surrounding areas, you only have one Judge to handle Civil, Land, Commercial, Family, Election Petitions, Administration Causes and Criminal matters. Even if that Judge has the wit of Solomon, they cannot do much.”
The new ULS Vice President, Diana Angwech was hopeful that with passing of the Administration Judiciary Act, staff shortages wound have been solved. She said they will continue advocating for the increase in the number of Judges as one of the ways to improve justice delivery.
A concern was raised on why some Judges refuse to award costs where parties are represented by legal aid lawyers. On this issue, the DCJ said it was a training need that had been identified and called for sensitization.
Malalira Faisal Umar, a Council Member raised a concern on the criteria of cause-listing whereby newer cases make it to the list while leaving out old matters.
The ULS team commended the Court of Appeal for the out of station sessions in different regions of the country. “We need more of the same. The users in these regions can now see justice being done in their areas.” They also appealed for the decentralization of the Court of Appeal Registry.
The Court’s Deputy Registrar, Ayebare Tumwebaze, reassured the representatives of the lawyers’ body that the Court follows the principle of first in first out except in exceptional circumstances.
The DCJ further reiterated this stand, adding that the Court was going to give priority to Constitutional Matters and Election Petitions as well. Adding that justice is only fair when it is handled expeditiously.
Ms Wall thanked the DCJ for the proposal to revive stakeholder committees. She pledged their support whenever called upon.
HW Tumwebaze shared that when the Electronic Court Case Management Information System eventually comes on board, innovations such as e-filing and e-payment will be fully utilized. He said the Judiciary is working on solutions to challenges such as unstable power supply and internet connectivity to ensure efficacy of the system.
The ULS appealed to Court for feedback on the conduct of lawyers. In response to this, HW Tumwebaze said there was a challenge of lawyers who refuse service of court process which causes unnecessary delays. He equally urged the new ULS leadership to mentor especially new lawyers and guide their legal practice. He decried the habit of lawyers discussing Judicial Officers and their cases on social media, hurling insults and other undue comments. He asked the ULS leadership to check their conduct.
On the issue of privacy when handling Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases, Justice Buteera called for sensitization of all stakeholders in the justice chain ranging from the police, media, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and members of the public.
They commended the Judiciary for prison decongestion programmes but called for efforts to reduce pretrial detention periods as well.
The meeting was attended by the ULS Ag. Chief Executive Officer, Leah Bita Nasasira and the DCJ’s Private Legal Secretary, Dr Alex Mushabe Karocho among others.