Malawi: Law Professor Declares Malawi 'Too Broken to Be Fixed' As K7bn Legal Fees Debate Rages On

13 August 2020

A vocal and outspoken law professor has declared that Malawi is too broken to be fixed, saying he cannot understand why the defense lawyers in the presidential election petition case were awarded a staggering K7 billion as legal costs.

In a Facebook post, Danwood Chirwa says he is yet to be given a satisfactory answer to the astronomical costs award the Tonse lawyers received.

"I've been made to understand that party-party costs serve as indemnity for the client.

"In simple terms a litigant pays lawyers for their services, and when the case is decided for the litigant, the losing party may be ordered to 'reimburse' some or all of the legal expenses incurred by the winning litigant on lawyers," he says.

Chirwa says in the polls case, the Tonse lawyers, claimed they were in it for free, saying so the client didn't pay anything. "What's more, the freebies meant that the client could admit everyone who showed up at the party door to assist.

"Of course, those who turned up incurred some hard expenses such as transport, lodging, susbsistence, stationary, equipment such as laptops etc," he says.

He says the party-party costs award were probably meant to reimburse some or all of these hard expenses.

"But to claim party-party costs for the client - the petitioners - who didn't pay a dime to the lawyers seems to me like unjustified enrichment of the petitioners.

"I understand that in Malawi some lawyers are in the habit of pocketing party-party costs which are meant for the litigant," he says.

He says the jargon of party-party costs and 'care and conduct' are some of the bogus notions lawyers use to swindle clients' money, saying the true intention of these concepts has been completely corrupted over the years.

The law professor says there are cases where a lawyer enters into an agreement with a client that the lawyer will be paid from party-party costs only, which can justify the withholding of the costs award from the client.

'Nothing of this sort was said as the case went on. We were told it was all for free. And because it was free, more lawyers joined the case than a client would normally afford or need.

"I am still struggling to differentiate between the moral standing of the lawyers for the petitioners and that of the lawyers for the respondents," he says.

He says the latter made no claims they were in the case for the greater good.

Chirwa said everybody knew they were in it for the money and for the selfish interests of the party.

He said they were seen as the bad guys and were ridiculed accordingly.

"The lawyers for the petitioners made some claims as to civic virtues, and we admired their courage, service and commitment to the greater good," he says.

Chirwa says in the end, both sets of lawyers have milked (or will milk) from the same underweight cow

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