Advocates and attorneys who flouted lockdown rules 'should not be paid'

08 April 2020 - 12:56
By Ernest Mabuza
The high court  in Middelburg has expressed displeasure at legal representatives who contravened the lockdown regulations.
Image: 123RF/skycinema The high court in Middelburg has expressed displeasure at legal representatives who contravened the lockdown regulations.

An acting high court judge has expressed displeasure at legal representatives who flouted lockdown regulations to appear before him in Mpumalanga.

Advocates and attorneys who appeared in an urgent court matter at the high court in Middelburg on March 31, barring one, were found by the court to have not complied with the rules while travelling to court. They had travelled across a provincial border or did not have a permit to appear.

The court ordered that the seven lawyers not be paid for their appearance and for any costs incurred travelling to court.

“The regulations were made to keep SA citizens at home and safe for at least 21 days to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the viral infection,” acting judge Hein Brauckmann said in a judgment last Friday.

“Should the citizens not heed the call, the pandemic might reach such proportions that SA’s health system would not be able to contain the spread thereof, nor treat those infected properly.” 

Brauckmann said before proceedings started in the matter involving the JS Moroka municipality and Goodwin Kubheka, he raised concerns and inquired from counsel whether their permits complied with the regulations.

“Though I was assured by counsel that it did comply, I could establish by merely glancing at the ‘permits’, that there was non-compliance by all but one of the legal practitioners in court with the directives and regulations,” Brauckmann said.

Brauckmann said the advocates and attorneys were therefore not entitled to charge their clients any fees for preparation, travelling or their appearance in court on March 31.

He also directed the registrar of the court to provide a copy of the judgment to the respective Legal Practice Council.

“I was not supposed to even entertain the matter, I should have directed all practitioners to return to their places of residence and remain there until the lockdown is over, and struck the matter off the roll.”

Brauckmann said he could not do so as it was apparent that residents of the Dr JS Maroka municipality did not have proper access to potable water.

“Water is essential to remain hygienic, and avoid infection by the novel coronavirus.”

Brauckmann issued an interim order authorising the municipality to provide water and postponed the matter until May 7.

Brauckmann said that though the legal practitioners rendered an essential service, they were still subject to the regulations issued by the minister.

“By blatantly ignoring them or acting without proper attention being paid to the regulations and directives, the practitioners are not doing themselves, nor the citizens of the republic any favours.”

Brauckmann said one would expect legal practitioners to study the relevant provisions regulating their conduct under the current exceptional circumstances before proceeding to court.

“The trying times that we live in affects everyone, and though one is sympathetic to the inconvenience that is being experienced by, among others, the legal practitioners, the regulations and directives are there for the good of everyone.”