This week’s cocktail brimmed of labor actions and the incessant requests to ‘take over’ other lawyers’ matters. Before I file a Notice of Change of Advocates, I cross-examine the intending client to find out the reasons for the change. Often, like many this week, the reasons range from poor case handling to ‘lawyer is against me’ to ‘lawyer is not doing a good job’ to ‘lawyer will eat the money court has awarded me’, e.t.c.
As a lawyer, I understand the rash to close a case and the client’s need to ‘close legal chapters’ in their business. However, being in this profession has taught me to respect due process, despite the snail systems. It is not easy explaining this ideology to a hasty client.
After a series of conversations, I looked up one case where the sitting judge expressed displeasure at some of the actions applicants make without regard to due court process. It is this case that the reader can use to reflect on the consequences of hasty decisions.
Patrick Nyakaana & Annet Karungi (the applicants) versus Associates in Rural Development Inc. & Peter Riley (the respondents), HCT-00-CV-MC-0028-2010 was an application before the Honorable Mr. Justice Yorokamu Bamwine where the test for patience in lawsuits was tried.
The applicants filed a Notice of Motion under Article 139 of the Constitution, S.14 & 33 of the Judicature Act, S.98 of the Civil Procedure Act and Order 52 rules 2&3 of the Civil Procedure Rules of Uganda, for orders that;
1. USD 78,655.88 deposited in court by the respondents be paid to the applicants; and
2. Costs of the application be paid for by the respondents.
The applicants vide Patrick Nyakaana’s affidavit claimed that the deposited money was deposited in court to fulfill the Court’s condition for stay of execution (delay a legal execution of suit) and security for performance of the decree/award of the Labor Officer pending resolution of the main suit.
The main suit was dismissed by the hearing court (court determining its merits) in favor of the applicants; which decision meant that the money had to be paid to the applicants.
However, the respondents appealed against this decision. The respondents also instructed new lawyers. This appeal dictated that the money remains in court custody until it was finalized.
Without regard to the pending appeal in another court, the applicants filed this application which was then presented to Justice Yorokamu to adjudicate upon. The whole process was marred by irregularities like filing in the wrong court (employment matters must be filed in the Industrial Court) and lawyer delays, and change of lawyers affecting the proper handling of the case.
Justice Yorokamu was irked by the multiple applications which, he opined, ought to have been stayed or not filed at all until the pending appeal was dealt with.
He also pointed out that the applicants had filed their suit in the wrong court and had also instructed multiple lawyers to handle a matter. He took offence in the multiple applications the applicants made without first receiving a formal decision from the court of previous instance. The incessant applications by the applicants, according to him, were frustrating the course of law.
He rejected the application saying; ‘…It was therefore unnecessary and in my view an abuse of the process of the court to file yet another application on similar terms as the earlier one and cause it to be put before another Judge…’
He further noted that; ‘Court cannot ignore the above irregularities and proceed to order that the suit funds be paid to the applicants when the same issue awaits determination in an earlier application and the respondents stand to be condemned unheard.’
In the end, the applicants lost this application and were ordered to cover their legal expenses. Also, they had to return to the court handling the appeal to settle their complaint.
1. Be patient.
Suits take time. Until the final court procedure is exhausted, one cannot say that they are entitled to the orders unless court assents. Besides, what has been commenced in court must be ended in court and our adversarial system does not shorten the process.
2. Avoid instructing multiple lawyers for the same matter unless you must and are within legal justification to do so.
In the rarest event that you instruct more than one lawyer in a matter, inform all parties concerned and have all the lawyers define their specific instructions. Otherwise, that could delay your case.
3. Understand that lawyers have a code of conduct they must follow.
Despite knowledge of a pending suit, some clients opt to instruct new Counsel to file subsequent applications or suits. Others even instruct new lawyers to ‘hijack’ other lawyers’ matters without first withdrawing previous instructions from the latter. It is not ethical and creates confusion.
In every court, the law allows for change of legal representation. You are not forced to retain a lawyer that you feel does not serve your interests in court. However, notifying your previous lawyer of the changes will enable him/her formally to withdraw from the case, notify court of the changes and thereafter surrender your documents and other material you may need, to your new lawyer.
Let your lawyer handle the process of withdrawing and filing instructions in court. The outcome of your case sometimes depends on how you conduct yourself against your adversary.
BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 8, Issue 4 of August 25th, 2017
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