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Malawi Law Society wants judges oaths put on hold

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CAUTIONED MLS—Kamchedzera

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has written President Lazarus Chakwera and Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, requesting that the judicial oaths of judges who have been promoted to the Supreme Court of Appeal be pended until the judges conclude their outstanding cases in the lower court.

Chakwera on Monday promoted four High Court judges, Healy Potani, John Katsala, Ivy Kamanga and Charles Mkandawire to the Supreme Court with effect from October 20. The Malawi leader also appointed 12 new High Court judges.

But while commending Chakwera and the Judicial Service Commission for the promotions, MLS has said there is need to make sure that the promoted Supreme Court judges do not leave a backlog of cases in the High Court.

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“Those that are currently already in the Judiciary at lower ranks will have taken a similar oath when entering upon the duties of the offices from which they have now been promoted.

“In respect of these, the Law Society requests and recommends that the judicial oath for their new offices be not administered until they have had adequate time to complete cases by way of delivery of judgements in all matters pending rulings before them, if any.

“In this way, they will have fully and completely executed the duties of their now previous offices and achieved the cited values in section 64 of the Lelpa [Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act],” reads part of the letter signed by MLS Honorary Secretary, Martha Kaukonde.

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The lawyers’ body further says the request and recommendation is consistent with Principle 3.9 in the Lilongwe Principles and Guidelines on the Selection and Appointment of Judicial Officers adopted by the Southern African Chief Justices Forum Conference on October 30, 2018.

MLS says the four judges that have been elevated to the Supreme Court have served the nation long and very well at the High Court.

The institution has, therefore, hailed Chakwera and the Judicial Service Commission for considering merit in the appointees.

“In respect of the High Court appointments, the Law Society notes that with four Judges from private practice, six from within the judiciary, one from main civil service and six out of 12 as female Judges, the spread of the appointments is well representative of the legal profession and a good reflection on the gender balance in this cohort of judicial appointments,” the letter says.

When asked for a comment on the matter, State House Press Secretary Brian Banda referred the matter to government spokesperson Gospel Kazako who also indicated Attorney General (AG) Chikosa Silungwe was better placed to comment. We did not manage to reach the AG.

But Chancellor College-based law expert, Garton Kamchedzera, cautioned MLS against inviting the President to interfere in affairs of the Judiciary.

“If there are concerns about backlogs of judgments that need to be written, they should channel such concerns to the Judicial Service Commission.

“The reason I say that they should not be inviting the President to interfere with the internal operations of the Judiciary is because that would be infringing the principle of separation of powers,” Kamchedzera said.

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