MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho has banned 65 lawyers from practising for failing to pay their annual subscription fees to the organisation.
The laws governing the legal profession stipulate that the lawyers should pay their fees in order to get practising certificates.
The practising certificates allow the practitioners to appear in court representing clients. The names of the defaulting lawyers were published at the High Court by the law society last Wednesday.
“The following people have not paid their subscription fees and are therefore not legal practitioners in terms of the Law Society Act of 1983 and the Legal Practitioners Act of 1983; and are therefore barred from practising as such,” read the memorandum dated August 12, 2009.
Advocates who do not have an office should pay an annual subscription fee of M500. Those that have offices are required to pay a subscription fee of M1 000 annually.
Prominent lawyers who have been barred from appearing in court include Lepedi Molapo, Advocate Kulundu, Masupha Klass and Nomsa Hoohlo. Lesala Nthabi, Advocate Rasekoai, Tsokolo Habasisa and Nchakha Mphalane have also been barred from appearing in court until they pay their subscription fees.
The memorandum was copied to the President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Justice, Chief Magistrate, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, sheriffs, clerks and registrars.
Lawyers that have not paid their subscription fees will not be issued with practising certificates that allow them to appear in court and represent clients.
A person who has trained in law but does not have a practising certificate issued by the law society is not regarded as a lawyer according to the law. It is illegal to practise as a lawyer without registration.
Law society secretary Advocate Tseliso Mokoko confirmed that the lawyers have been barred from practising until they pay their subscription fees.
“It is a requirement of the Legal Practitioner’s Act and the Law Society Act for lawyers to have practising certificates. To get these certificates they must pay that annual fee,” Mokoko said.
“Lawyers who do not have those certificates are not allowed to practise. It would be illegal if they do that.”
There are about 300 registered lawyers in Lesotho.
Since 2008 about 140 have been admitted as attorneys.
The decision to blacklist the defaulting lawyers is likely to worsen the backlog of cases at the courts. Thousands of cases are still pending in the courts.
There are also cases which date back as far as 1990 that have not been heard in the courts. In some instances cases have taken more than 10 years to complete.
The decision is likely to embarrass the law society as it is the one that recently set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the judiciary’s inefficiencies.
During some of the hearings, witnesses who are lawyers said some judges were delaying judgments.
They also accused some judges of spending more time on workshops and personal issues instead of dealing with the mounting backlog of cases in the courts.
The decision to bar the 65 lawyers from appearing in courts came after the society last month reminded the lawyers to pay their fees in order to get practising certificates.
The society issued a memorandum on July 17, 2009 warning lawyers who appeared in court without practising certificates that they would be committing fraud.
“Members who continue to practise without practising certificates will be subjected to disciplinary hearing. In addition they will be reported to the police as this constitutes fraud,” the memorandum said.
Lawyers were expected to have started paying their fees last October but they were given a grace period of 10 months (up to July this year) to finalise their payments.
If the 65 lawyers cannot appear in court it means that many cases will have to be postponed.
Their clients who are facing trial will suffer prejudice as well.