Judge slams lawyers over shoddy work

Thursday, 15 September 2016 - 4:54pm

Lydia Mugambe was making a presentation on the ‘Legal Perspectives from Parliamentary Election Petitions 2016’

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Lawyer Kiwanuka Kiryowa chats with the director of civil litigation in the Attorney General’s office Denis Bireje during symposium. Photo by Tony Rujuta

High Court Judge Lydia Mugambe has slammed lawyers who go to court ill-prepared, saying they cheat their clients by doing shoddy work.

Mugambe voiced her personal observations at the Election Petition 2016 symposium, organised by the Uganda Law Society (ULS) and the Ford Foundation, at Serena Hotel, Kampala. It was held under the theme 'Beyond the Petitions: Which way forward'. 

She was making a presentation on the ‘Legal Perspectives from Parliamentary Election Petitions 2016’.

Mugambe said some lawyers do not make adequate preparations before appearing in court, while others make blatant lies, putting their clients’ case in jeopardy. 

“Lawyers, please learn to prepare. If you don’t prepare, you are bound to have a bad case. Have courtesy in court, be truthful, and don’t tell lies about documentary evidence. Lawyers are telling straight white lies,”Mugambe remarked. 

She also cautioned lawyers from being emotional, and advised them to remember the tutorials on argumentation from law school. 

The Judge remarked that some lawyers file cases outside the stipulated period, which dents their chances of attaining justice because of the technicality of filing outside time.

Mugambe also asked lawyers to stick to the law, noting that the primary law is the 1995 Constitution. She noted that the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 is instructive, and that lawyers arguing petitions should be specific. 

“Lawyers, as officers of court, bring out the illegalities and penalties. Assist court to arrive at a decision,” the Judge stated. 

She encouraged the civil society to explore the option of filing an election petition, using a registered voter, who is mandated to do so under the law, provided there is backing of 500 registered voters. 

Discussant, senior lawyer Ngaruye Ruhindi agreed with the Judge, saying some lawyers have stopped being professional. He asked for punitive measure to be invoked, since the law prescribes penalties. 

“From my experience, some lawyers have ceased being lawyers and have become politicians. Lawyers tell all sorts of lies. Judges should do something about these false statements made,” Ngaruye said. 

Justice of the Court of Appeal, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, noted that election petitions are by nature public interest litigation. 

“It is not only a candidate who loses alone. They do so with very many people (supporters). At times, some of us who have been there, let go but the supporters don’t,” noted Justice Owiny-Dollo. 

Many lawyers were in attendance, including Makerere law don Dr Christopher Mbaziira and Robert Kirunda, who formed part of the team that drafted the amicus curiae notes in the Amama Mbabazi 2016 presidential election petition.