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Legal fees saga rages

Malawi Law Society calls out women lawyers

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The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has joined other quarters to condemn the award of K255, 684,112.00 to some members of the Women Lawyers Association (WLA) in the Msundwe women rape case.

In a statement released Sunday, the society has also described the order as “unusual” and “unjustified”.

Signed by the society’s president Patrick Mpaka and Secretary Chrispin Ngunde, MLS further indicates that it shares the public’s concern on the matter since tax payers’ money is at stake.

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“The Court was presented with a bill of costs claiming the sum of K215,628,102.00. Only three issues were orally raised by the State against that bill. After assessment, the Court awarded a total sum of K255,684,112.00 although certain figures were deducted from the original claims.

“Subject to what is actually on the Court record (which the Malawi Law Society is yet to examine), the Malawi Law Society considers a total award of K255,684,112.00 unusual and unjustified in a normal Judicial Review case ending at the High Court level. The award appears contrary to the 13 basic principles for assessing costs as outlined in Order 31 rule 5 of the Courts (High Court) (Civil Procedure) Rules which is the major legal guideline for assessing costs of proceedings in the High Court,” the statement reads.

Mpaka and Ngunde have also reiterated the need to protect public resources while acknowledging the power that courts retain to order costs against public institutions or individuals holding public office even in a matter where a litigant is represented on pro bono basis.

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“Such orders serve a useful purpose to vindicate the law and to encourage public institutions or public officers to abide by the law in their exercise of powers of the State,” the statement adds.

An agreement in our possession indicates that, in July last year, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa) through Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) released a grant of $50, 000 part of which was to cater for legal fees and other logistics of the case.

The Daily Times gathers that the WLA also got funding from UN Women, Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla) and Tithetse Nkhanza Programme.

Team Leader for Tithetse Nkhanza Grace Malera could not be drawn to comment on the issue.

In a related development, lawyer Thabo Nyirenda observed that the claim was exorbitant and immoral, saying simple calculations meant that the women lawyers worked 200 days nonstop adding that junior lawyers charge K30,000 per hour while senior ones charge K40,000.

“The case started by way of judicial review. We do not expect a lot of work,” he said.

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