18 January 2013

Namibia: Damaseb Aims to End Outstanding Judgements

GUIDELINES on the time limits for the delivery of reserved judgements of the High Court will from now on be strictly implemented and enforced, High Court Judge President Petrus Damaseb said yesterday.

Judge President Damaseb made this remark in the High Court in Windhoek in an address at the official opening of the court for 2013.

"We have now reached the stage where I can state that from this point onward, my office will strictly implement and enforce the guidelines for the delivery of judgements," he said.

"In consultation with the JSC (Judicial Service Commission), we have put in place measures which will have the result that by the end of this year, not a single litigant will be without a judgement outside the guidelines for the delivery of reserved judgements."

The JSC adopted guidelines for the delivery of reserved judgements of the High Court in late 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.

In terms of these guidelines, 79 judgements were overdue for delivery in the High Court by the end of November last year. At the end of 2011, the court's overdue judgements numbered 118, according to figures released by the chief registrar of the court.

With new High Court rules in the pipeline, the current draft of the rules include provisions that would require judges to take no longer than 15 days to give a ruling or judgement in interlocutory motions, and to announce the date for the delivery of a judgement in open court in cases where a judgement is reserved, Judge President Damaseb said.

He added that the court's registrar would also be required to publish an annual report making public the work of the court for the past year, including details about all reserved judgements and the date when these had been delivered or ought to have been handed down.

Judge President Damaseb also directed a plea to the legal profession to do everything possible to reduce the amount of interlocutory skirmishes - arguments on preliminary technical points, before the merits of a case are dealt with - during litigation, which he said have become the norm in the High Court and which only help to protract litigation and increase costs.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for cases to move speedily towards trial or hearing because the majority of the judge's time is spent adjudicating interlocutory disputes instead of the merits of the case," he said.

Statistics released with the court opening yesterday indicate that the High Court continued to receive a heavy workload over the past year.

While 107 new criminal appeals were registered with the court during 2012, 117 criminal appeals were finalised during the year. A total of 2 357 new criminal review cases were registered with the court during 2012. Criminal reviews which were finalised totalled 2 801.

Civil cases registered with the court during 2012 totalled 4 658, and 3 538 civil cases were finalised.

Forty-two new criminal cases were registered with the court during 2012. Twenty-five criminal cases were finalised in the High Court during 2012, the statistics indicate.

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