Chief Justice Malaba warns lawyers posting social media complaining about Court judgements

Chief Luke Malaba
Spread the love

CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba has taken a swipe at lawyers who take to social media and other fora to attack judgments that go against their clients when they are aware of legal remedies available to them to address their grievances.

Officially opening the 2023 legal year in Harare yesterday, Chief Justice Malaba underscored the need for judicial independence saying it was important for the maintenance of peace, order and the rule of law.

He said lawyers were perfectly aware of the legal remedies available if they thought a judgment was incorrect, and while he could understand non-lawyers who lost their cases and blamed the judicial officer, it was a cause for concern when a lawyer, who knew the law, did the same.

The ceremony of the opening of the legal year was held under the theme: “Promoting competence and quality of service to enhance public confidence in the judiciary”.

Chief Justice Malaba said it was not the role of the courts to satisfy personal preferences of court users, but instead to follow the law.

“The common source of criticism emanated from litigants who would have had court decisions made against them,” Chief Justice Malaba said. “The tendency is to blame lack of judicial competence for the loss. At worst, they allege corruption.

“While the tendency to blame a judicial officer for a negative decision is understandable in the case of self-actors who may not be aware of the available remedies for redressing the perceived wrong, it becomes a cause for concern when a legal practitioner, who is an officer of court, is involved.

“It is regrettable conduct for a legal practitioner to go on social media or to assemble a press conference to castigate a decision and insult a judicial officer because he or she made a decision against the legal practitioner’s client.

“While constructive and measured criticism of court decisions is welcome and encouraged as it adds value to jurisprudential development, no value is added to the justice delivery system from scandalous attacks on the integrity of judicial officers.”

A number of opposition activists, including some who are lawyers, have on numerous occasions attacked the integrity of the courts whenever court decisions go against them.

Chief Justice Malaba said it was the duty of judicial officers to provide services to the public in accordance with the law.

“It is not part of the duties of officers in the judiciary to satisfy personal needs of court users. Where one is aggrieved by a decision made by the court it is important to rely on legal processes for remedy. Insulting the courts and judicial officers will not help to have the order set aside.

“Such conduct has the effect of undermining public confidence in the judiciary. The judiciary is bound by the law to resist insidious pressure to make decisions according to public clamour, contrary to the dictates of the facts and the applicable law,” he said.

Chief Justice Malaba also upheld the right and independence of the National Prosecuting Authority to initiate or decline prosecutions, without pressure from anyone else.

He said neither the judiciary nor other State institutions like the police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, had any right to direct the National Prosecuting Authority on matters to prosecute or decline prosecution.

The Chief Justice said Section 190 of the Constitution required the Judicial Services Commission to act in a fair and transparent manner to retain public confidence.

“The need to ensure public confidence and trust in the judicial system is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the JSC must act in a just, fair and transparent manner.

“Judicial independence protects the important presumption that the judiciary does not act on instructions from other arms of the State. This, is turn, gives effect to the impartiality of the judicial officers, as they represent an objective standard upon which legal disputes can be adequately addressed,” Chief Justice Malaba said.

While co-operation between State entities was welcome, he stressed that the independence of the judiciary must be respected within the constitutional dictates of separation of powers.

Law Society of Zimbabwe president Mr Wellington Magaya welcomed the Chief Justice’s stance on preserving judicial independence.

“There are two issues that stood out for me, issues of judicial independence, rule of law and quality of justice. As the Law Society we believe that the cornerstone of the delivery of justice is an independent judiciary.

“The Chief Justice has highlighted that this is something that is important. The independence of the judiciary is reflected in its ability to fund its own processes and in the manner it conducts itself.

“The commitment from the Chief Justice to address issues of perceptions of bias and independence is welcome on our part because this is an issue that affects the justice delivery system,” Mr Magaya said. – Herald