Lawyers representing Lawyer Godfrey Turyamusiima in a case before the High Court at Kampala seeking the declassification of Lawyers as non essential service providers during the ongoing lock down against the Coronavirus have written to the Judiciary demanding the withdrawal of the institution’s request to the President of the Uganda Law Society to ” forward to us the schedule of the Advocates chosen to practice in line with the presidential directives.”
Easing the lockdown on Monday, President Museveni directed that the Uganda Law Society ” will be allowed a quota of 30 lawyers at any one time to provide urgent legal services ” to businesses and ” to handle urgent criminal matters like arraignment ,” a directive that has ever since generated controversy within legal circles especially as regards to the criteria to be used in arriving at the 30 lawyers.
According to the Lawyers from Wameli and Company Advocates in a letter addressed to the Acting Chief Registrar of Courts of Judicature Mr Tom Chemutai, President Museveni’s directive violates the subjudice rule since the matter of whether Lawyers should be allowed to operate during the pandemic is still before the High Court presided over by Justice Micheal Elabu who is expected to give a ruling on Thursday and that by the Judiciary requesting for the directed 30 lawyers it promotes the presidential directives and furthers the violation of the sub-judice rule and interference of with the Presiding Judge’s independence.
” We have been disturbed by your letter to the President of the Uganda Law Society requesting for the names of 30 Advocates to be permitted to practice in courts at a particular time in line with presidential directives.
” We believe that this only promotes the presidential directives and furthers the violation of the subjudice rule and interference with the Presiding Judge’s independence.
” It is in the interest of Justice, the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary that we demand that this letter ( Judiciary’s to the ULS) be withdrawn as we await the ruling so that the Honorable Judge is allowed to exercise the Judicial power given to him by the Constitution, which power is in turn derived from the people of Uganda” The Lawyers’ letter reads in part.
The Judiciary Spokesperson Mr Solomon Muyita had not responded to our requests for comment by press time.
President Museveni’s directive beyond fanning subjudice and Judicial interference concerns has also been attacked for interfering with client autonomy – the freedom of an individual to choose a lawyer of their choice. With 30 lawyers permitted to operate, it means a person with a legal issue will have to choose his or her lawyer from the 30 even when his or her preferred lawyer is not among.
” Thirty lawyers to work throughout the whole of Uganda! … How about the client-lawyer choice; will they be forcing the few selected lawyers on clients who might not want them?” Ms Sylivia Namubiru, the Executive director of LASPNET Uganda wonders in an interview with Daily Monitor.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Law Society has responded to the Judiciary’s request by submitting a list of all its 3500 members.
” You are aware that the issue of instructions is dependent on the clients. Therefore our members deserve to appear as and when their client’s cases are scheduled before the Courts of law. For that reason, we have attached a list of all our members to this letter for your information and consideration” Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, the Law Society President says in a letter seen by the Legal Reports to the Acting Chief Registrar of the Courts of Judicature Mr Tom Chemutai.