Barely days after revelations that eight lawyers were recommended for disciplinary action, six of them face legal action following the Attorney General ’s commencement of disbarment procedures with Chief Justice.
AG Kalekeni Kaphale confirmed in an interview that his office has followed up on recommendations of the disciplinary committee of the Malawi Law Society (MLS) by writing the Chief Justice for commencement of trial involving the lawyers under spotlight. Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda also confirmed receiving files for proceedings of disbarment from the AG.
“I can indeed confirm I have received files. We are starting hearings soon. I am not sure about the number so far. Let me explain that by starting procedures it does not mean that the lawyers have been automatically disbarred, but this is a process that will give both sides a chance to explain themselves then we will make a ruling,” said Nyirenda.
As of last wek Friday, Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula, was able to confirm the cases against four lawyers but Nation on Sunday’s efforts to access the case documents last week proved futile.
However, Mvula could not specify the allegations against each lawyer only citing indiscipline in broad terms. As revealed by Nation on Sunday, Solicitor General (SG) Janet Banda, who by virtue of her position, also chairs the Malawi Law Society (MLS) disciplinary committee, blamed MLS for not acting with speed after making recommendations to it.
On Thursday, Kaphale described the question on whether his office could release the names as “tricky” but with the confirmation that the court procedures have now commenced upon his moving of the courts, added the public and media can now access the list from courts.
While the SG indicated that the disciplinary committee recommended prosecution, disbarment and suspensions, the six cases referred to court so far have only recommended disbarment.
“I referred the matter to court meaning we are now starting proceedings which we ask the Chief Justice to take action. Ultimately, it’s the Chief Justice who rules on whether one is disbarred or not based on the weight of evidence submitted,” said Kaphale.
According to him, most of the cases involved lawyers failing to make payments to clients after getting court compensations, absconding from duty or running away from clients.
“I am cracking the whip while also acting as caretaker of the fraternity. This is very sensitive and my precautious position means I have to tread carefully. We received the recommendations and have commenced proceedings. We are doing something to ensure the image of the fraternity is protected and discipline is enforced,” added Kaphale.
MLS president John SuziBanda last week said the law society was working hard to ensure discipline is upheld in the fraternity and said support to the work of the disciplinary committee was clear evidence of this.
Said Suzi-Banda: “We have facilitated (by way of funding and administrative support) meetings of the Disciplinary Committee to clear the existing backlog of cases. Clearly we have some way to go before we can conclude all cases but at least we are recording progress being made. The MLS has supported courts’ interventions which have led to over five members of Society being admonished by the Honorable the Chief Justice for practising without valid licenses and in one case has led to the disbarment of a legal practitioner for abandoning his law firm for some years.