11 June 2019

Uganda: Court Overturns Lawyer Alaka's Suspension

Kampala — Court has quashed the conviction and suspension of lawyer Caleb Alaka over accusations of professional negligence.

A panel of three judges; Stephen Musota, Margaret Oguli Oumo and Lydia Mugambe ruled that Mr Alaka was not negligent when his firm represented a client, Mr Vincent Jjako Akawuwo, in an election case. Mr Alaka was held professionally negligent when he advised Mr Akawuwo in the local council election case.

However, the judges said: "If all counsels who made wrong opinions were to end up as being deemed professional misconducts, then no one would have practised law because lawyers make errors and with respect even judges make errors sometimes."

The court decision resulted from an appeal in which Mr Alaka challenged the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Council made on December 14, 2012.

The law council had ordered that Mr Alaka refunds Shs4m to Mr Akawuwo as instruction fees, pay him Shs1 million as fuel for transport costs and Shs20m as damages.

The disciplinary committee had suspended Mr Alaka for six months, ordered him to pay Shs500,000 and accused the lawyer of exhibiting disrespect to the tribunal and the profession. But the judges ruled that the orders were unjustified and condemned the Law Council over the costs incurred by Mr Alaka.

He filed the appeal against Mr Akawuwo, a former client of Mr Alaka and Company Advocates and the Law Council.

Court documents indicate that the Law Council suspended Mr Alaka in 2012 basing on accusations brought by Mr Akawuwo, a former contestant for the post of Nsangi Sub-county chairperson in Wakiso District.

According to the judgment, the Law Council allowed the complaint in Mr Alaka's absence and made orders against him.

Through his lawyer, Mr Alaka faulted the lawyers' disciplinary body for omitting to render him a hearing thereby rendering him guilty of professional negligence.

The judges ruled that Mr Alaka was not properly served with hearing notices and complaint papers.

"The complaint was personal against the appellant (Alaka) but the respondents decided to serve other persons which persons the appellant claims he did not know," ruled the judges, adding that hearing of the complaint ex-parte (one sided) against Mr Alaka denied the appellant a right to a fair hearing.

Ruling

The court ruled that it was unfair for a person who did not participate in the hearing (Justice Remmy Kasule) to render a decision on a case and hence a miscarriage of justice for the chairperson of the committee to sign the ruling.

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