THE High Court has been making some steady progress in reducing its number of overdue reserved judgements during the past year.
Court statistics released by the chief registrar of the High Court, Elsie Schickerling, indicate that the court’s judges have managed to work down their total of overdue judgements by a third from the start of this year to the end of November. From the end of 2010 to the end of November this year, the court has reduced its number of overdue judgements by about 42 percent.
Overdue judgements are judgements which have not been handed down within the time frames set by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) when it adopted guidelines for the delivery of reserved judgements in November 2009.
The time frames vary from one week, for a ruling on a bail application, to 12 months, for a judgement to be delivered in a complex criminal trial. The time frame for the delivery of a judgement in a complex civil trial, a review application, and opposed motion proceedings involving the declaration of the unconstitutionality of legislation, common law or other conduct, is eight months.
Judgements in other opposed motion proceedings, and also on civil, criminal and labour appeals, are supposed to be delivered within six months, according to the JSC guidelines.
The statistics released by Schickerling show that litigants were still waiting for 138 overdue judgements to be delivered in the High Court’s Main Division in Windhoek by the end of December 2010.
One of these judgements dated all the way back to 2001, while five dated from 2002, five from 2003, six from 2004, four from 2005, and seven from 2006.
By the end of December 2011, the court’s overdue judgements had been reduced to 118. The remaining overdue judgements included four judgements awaited since 2002, four dating from 2003, five from 2004, two from 2005, and five from 2006.
The court has managed to work away many of its overdue judgements this year, bringing the total figure down from 118 at the start of the year to 79 by the end of November.
The remaining overdue judgements include three from 2004, two from 2005, and five from 2006.
The delivery of eight overdue judgements dating from 2007 was still awaited at the end of 2010. By the end of 2011, three overdue judgements from 2007 remained outstanding. This figure has been reduced to zero by the end of November.
By the end of November, there were still five overdue judgements from 2008, nine from 2009, 16 from 2010, and 11 from 2011 on the court’s records.
The judge with the most overdue reserved judgements is Judge Kato van Niekerk, with 53 such judgements still to be delivered by her, the court’s statistics indicate. Judge Nate Ndauendapo had 11 overdue judgements to deliver by the end of November, while some other judges had one, two or three outstanding overdue judgements against their names.
Judges have a heavy workload, according to Schickerling, and while they have to work on reserved judgements, new cases that they also have to deal with continue to land on their desks.
The judges who were allocated the biggest number of civil and labour cases to deal with from mid-May 2011 to the end of November this year, are Judge Dave Smuts, who received 264 cases (and has no overdue judgements pending), of which 176 have been finalised, Judge Collins Parker, who received 263 cases in that period (and also has no overdue judgements pending), of which 125 have been finalised, Acting Judge Kobus Miller, who received 263 cases in that time and finalised 184 of those, Judge Van Niekerk, who had 261 new cases allocated to her and finalised 143, Judge Harald Geier, with 258 new cases allocated to him, of which 117 have been finalised, and Judge Shafimana Ueitele, who received 229 new cases to deal with, and has finalised 38.