On the Spot – Law Society On the New Rules of the High Court [interview]

Following the introduction of new rules by the High Court, New Era’s court reporter, Roland Routh approached the Director of the Law Society of Namibia, Retha Steinmann, on what the new rules entail and their significance to the ordinary man in the street.

Please tell us shortly what the new rules entail?

The new rules of the High Court reflect a fundamental change in the manner in which litigation is conducted in the High Court. The court is now firmly in charge of the pace at which litigation is conducted and the conduct of a case is managed through a series of conferences with an assigned Managing Judge. Various other changes have also been made to the rules of the High Court. These include, amongst others, the introduction of mediation. A Managing Judge, in terms of Rule 38, may – on hisher own initiative or at the request of a party, refer any part of the proceeding or any issue to alternative dispute resolution (defined as including conciliation or mediation), and in an attempt to resolve any such part or issue. The new rules require a party to be fully prepared from the outset and discourage last-minute preparations, which may lead to unnecessary postponements and waste of the court’s time, and that of the other litigants. Ultimately, the new rules of the High Court are designed to achieve the overriding objective, being to facilitate the resolution of the real issues in dispute justly and speedily, efficiently and cost effectively as far as practicable, by ensuring that the parties are on equal footing, saving costs, including by limiting interlocutory proceedings, dealing with a cause or matter proportionate to the amount or value of the monetary claim involved, the importance of the cause and the complexity of the issues and the financial position of the parties. Ensuring that cases are dealt with expeditiously and fairly, recognising that judicial time and resources are limited and considering the public interest in limiting issues in dispute and in the early settlement of disputes by agreement between the parties.

When would the new Rules be effected?

The new rules are effective as from 16 April 2014 .

According to some lawyers interviewed the new rules would result in clients paying more than is currently the case as consultation fees to lawyers. What is you r comment on this?

Whilst it may be that the up-front costs of initiating and prosecuting proceedings in the High Court have increased as a result of the new rules, the objective is to save significant costs (which would, under the old rules, have accumulated as the trial date nears) by ensuring early and proper preparation for trial. This also allows for the early identification of the real and central issues, which require adjudication and encourages early settlement of matters. This, in turn, will result in a reduction of legal costs. The rules themselves try to curb costs, including by discouraging interlocutory proceedings and limiting costs pertaining thereto.

The new rules requires that a judge is always involved. With the current congestion of the court roll, will this be possible?

This question is best addressed by the Honourable Judge President. Thus far, however, it would appear that the High Court is able to attend to the added case management responsibilities.

The new rules was intended to considerably shorten civil trials, will this be achieved and how much time will be saved?

This question is difficult to answer given the fact that the new rules have only been in operation since 16 April 2014. What is apparent, however, it that early trial dates are being allocated, assisting in the speedy disposal of cases. The process, from initiation of an action to trial, has been considerably shortened.

Any other comment you wish to make is welcome.

Save as aforementioned, none.

Source : New Era