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<< October 2006  | November 2006 |  December 2006 >>
Law Society AGM 2007

Its the Law Society of the Northern Provinces AGM on Saturday and I understand it will be well attended. The meetings have become more boisterous in recent years and I think this one will set new standards when it comes to that!
I can tell you one thing I took part in last year and am back for this year - the Golf Day on Friday. It really is great and you can see the Law Society shirts stretched all over the Lost City course all day. Luckily I have a morning tee off time so at about 1pm tomorrow my game will be over.
The lastest word on the RAF? Various rumors that the regulations will be ready next week. Obviously then they will still have to be legislated.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 02-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
High Court Trial dates
The trial dates on my blog reflect dates been allocated now, but not what you will be given if you apply today – and the backlog in the High Court is growing everyday!  For eg the current High Court dates being allocated are June 2007, but that is only if you handed in your application somewhere around May (there seems to be a lot of inconsistency with these).  The Registrar, has advised Daleen if you hand in an application now, based on the recent flood of applications he has had he guesses you will get a date in June 2008.  Lets hope he is joking – and on a more serious note that the backlog gets caught up.  The bottom line is the Magistrates Court does a fantastic job with a much bigger load and one can’t imagine why the High Court in Johannesburg has such problems.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 06-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Law Society AGM on Saturday
The Annual General Meeting of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces was attended by an all time record number of attorneys for an AGM – a massive 487 attorneys (according to the attendance register which not all complete and which is obviously an understated figure).  The emphasis on issues of practical importance to colleagues no doubt played a role in this regard with the Road Accident Fund and Conveyancing featuring prominently on the Agenda.

The opening address was delivered by the Honourable Judge R Zulman, of the Supreme Court of Appeal who spoke of his disinterest in such lofty titles, and delivered an entertaining and forthright speech dealing with amongst other things, the proposed 14th Amendment.  He suggested the Law Society of the Northern Provinces become involved in determining the future of this legislation which is currently under discussion and that a White Paper was expected in due course.

Former attorney and now Judge, George Maluleke spoke of his experiences as a Judge from an attorneys perspective and said that he thought that experience as an attorney led to one bringing humanity to the bench and relayed experiences that he personally had in the past as an attorney when a Judge berated him in front of a client for poor pleadings – that were drafted and signed by Counsel!  He said that the very fact that attorneys, when signing High Court pleadings, had to state the Act of Parliament and capacity in which they did so was belittling to attorneys.

President Ronald Bobroff, who had already supplied a very thorough and in depth President’s Report to the membership which one would be well advised to read carefully, then addressed the capacity gathering.  He spoke of the onerous task as President of having to peruse and sign applications for the striking of attorneys.  He said in many cases this was young attorneys unfamiliar with bookkeeping and who struggled to retain competent bookkeepers.  He said the stigma of being struck from the roll almost always destroyed a person and we needed a mentoring system to assist newly admitted attorneys especially so as to try and reduce the numbers.

He spoke of the right of all people to have a right to safety and security and the crime wave sweeping South Africa and said the Constitution need to be used to tackle this problem with more appropriate cases being brought before the Courts.

Ronald again tackled one of his pet subjects - being the environment saying the green belts were being neglected and this very neglect then used as an excuse to sell off the land to developers. 

On the issue of the Road Accident Fund he complained of the lack of consultation with the profession subsequent to the Satchwell Commission.  That will no doubt also give grounds for Constitutional attack if need be in due course, in light of recent judgments by that Court.  The hit and run issue had recently come before the Constitutional Court, and although the organized profession had not been involved with the application hopefully a positive result could be expected shortly.

He said the Legal Board now saw its mandate as doing civil work in certain circumstances, something which was of concern to many attorneys.

On the issue of Contingency Fees he advised that only the Cape Law Society had not supported this already and that complaints had been received from some of its members that it had in fact not done so already.  He said not one member of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, which constitutes, the majority of all attorneys in the whole Country, had to be disciplined on this basis in 5 years and that proved that the public and attorneys supported this.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 07-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
LSSA in charge of constitutional attack
Following my last blog I got some e-mail enquiries as to what is happening with the Law Society challenge on the Road Accident Fund. Well, I can say some things, and I can't say others but what I can say is that both the Johannesburg Attorneys Association and the Gauteng Law Council, from altogether 5 Advocates, and different perspectives have been given opinions saying that the Act is not constitutional.  The Law Society of South Africa is taking over the brief and Ronald Bobroff has taken charge of briefing of Counsel.  No doubt we will hear further in this regard and it is of course good that a personal injury attorney is in charge of the brief this time.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 08-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
American elections and reading material

Amongst the things I love are magazines and technology.  Now if you like those things you often have to be patient in South Africa - sometimes, as with the Blackberry it can take years for something to come to SA and then in the case of the new Nokia E61 its more up to date.  I have figured out e-mail etc on the rather decent phone but I am so used to predictive text that I struggle when given a QWERTY keyboard designed for mice.

The one field where our magazines, try as hard as they do, can just not compete is with the top international business magazines.  I get quite a few must my favourite, which is not stocked in SA as far as I can see is Business Week.  One has to follow business carefully to see where the trends will next emerge.  As for reading books - I struggle more with those - but currently reading Bob Woodward's State of Denial : Bush at War (Part III) which reportedly gives him lots of stick.  So far its a tour de Rumsfeld and his war plans.  I follow the best selling lists in the US quite closely and it seems that books achieve prominence there as much as 6 months ahead of SA although with music the gap can be closer to 2 to 6 weeks.  I guess in many ways I am also a history buff and I do follow American politics fairly closely - and am not a Bush fan.  The Democrats are up now, but they usually contrive a loss by Presidential elections....

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 09-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Law Society complaints

There is so much to write on weekends that I invariably forget most of it - in time to save myself from a  keyboard injury!  Attorneys have been sending me articles on the Law Society of England allowing referral fees, others referring me to some recent cases.  More on this in the future.

What I thought to raise today though was the President's annual report with specific reference to any complaints one receives about either services or fees.  Ronald Bobroff, the former President (Mohammed Husain was voted in at the AGM) writes:

Members whose matters are to come before wither of these two Committees are encouraged to enquire as to the make up of the Committee and to object if the Committee in question is inappropriately comprised.

Earlier he states, along the same lines, "It is absurd that a conveyancer should sit in judgment on a medical negligence matter...."

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Sunday 12-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Prison inmates get compensation

Drug addict inmates in England sue the Government because their incarceration makes them go cold turkey and they get paid out for their discomfort.  For some reason personal injury attorneys in South Africa are very conservative - with prisons like ours there should be thousands and thousands of cases - and helping improve our prisons etc at the same time.

Today was a Law Society appearances day for me - when attorneys in terms of Rule 101 have the opportunity to present their case as to why they should not be struck off.  Its a draining day and it began at 9am in Pretoria and ended just after 6pm.  There are increasing number of attorneys who simply don't file their trust audits etc on time and with the Law Society getting tougher, and numbers of admitted attorneys increasing, the number of those with problems will no doubt, sadly, increase.  The cases before us are generally serious - but the best way to get the Law Society attention is still to put your return in late - or not at all.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 13-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Civil Union

The BBC covered SA's passing of the Civil Union Bill today with the announcement that we are coming to terms with what it means to be a "liberal democracy".

If you are interested in the bill you can find it here

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 14-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Hit and run cases

I can't say I am overly excited when I see the heads of arguments in the hit and run case.  It might well go the way of Plaintiff's but on reading the heads I would not be sure it won't be without tears.  One can't help but feel that the profession should have joined in on this one and led evidence, how for example, at the Rosebank Police Station in the middle of Johannesburg you can't even force the Police to take hit and run affidavits most of the time.

The Defendant attorneys, who incidentally are based in Rosebank also, denied that this is in fact the case.  I guess when you defend matters perhaps it is the fraud you see and when you represent client's its the shocking real experiences of clients turned away, even attorneys ignored etc.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 16-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
New RAF settlement record soon
There is a case coming up shortly involving Pretoria plaintiff and defendant firms which is going to set new records, and by miles, in terms of Roac Accident Fund settlements.  Sadly, its not a case in which I am involved, but i can tell you its a passenger, and overseas one at that involving a professional person.  So watch this space - its going to be massive.
Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 20-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
LSSA to lead RAF case

Attorneys always ask what is happening with the Constitutional Case with regard to the Road Accident Fund proposals.  While the JAA may join such a fight - and certainly has done the intial work, its a task beyond our capacity in financial terms.

Ronald Bobroff, on behalf of the Law Society of South Africa is briefing Counsel in this regard and while a number of opinions have been very favourable, Ronald has not yet decided on Counsel to represent the LSSA.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 21-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
3 year prescription in RAF matters unconstitutional?

In a recent judgment, which the Court itself referred to the Constitutional Court, the East London High Court held that Section 23(1) of the Road Accident Fund Act is inconsistent with the Constitution.  This is the 3 year time period and the facts in this case are special - with the claimant being blind, just for starters.  The Fund initially offered to pay his claim, even though lodged late, if he were to prove he was blind.  That offer was not however carried through.  The case, which the Constitutional Court will hear shortly is Vusumzi Mdeyide vs Road Accident Fund.

The Judge in his summary says that Section 23(1) is inconsistent with the Constitution "in so far as it does not make provision for the knowledge of the debtor and of the facts from which the debt arises, infringes upon the the rights of the plaintiff of access to Courts....."

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 23-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Law Society councillors

Friday was the last Law Society meeting for the year - and it is bringing to a close the meeting season of November!  I still have the Racing Association meeting this week and our AGM, but without doubt being involved in the Law Society is time consuming.  I have calculated for ordinary councillors you would have to give 21 working days a year to the Law Society - or effectively one month of your time!

That really is huge and puts into perspective the 3 days or so for Gauteng Law Council and pretty much the same amount of time for the JAA - about 6 meetings each with each one lasting 3 or 4 hours.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Saturday 25-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Back on legal issues though, it was interesting to note that an attorney had a complaint laid against him that he had charged hourly fees in a matter instead of contingency as he had agreed.  Of course one should stick to that is agreed but it is funny how clients reaction depends entirely on the quantum involved. 

The bottom line, as many of our colleagues learn, is that if the matter turns out to be a great success you will face a complaint about contingency fees, and if it is goes sour then you will face a complaint that 25% is the be all and end all and that is what you should have charged.  So you take a knock on the small ones and on the bigger ones – if only staff would work on the always take a knock principal!

Make sure you sign up proper fee agreements to prevent "confusion" by clients which will never co-incide with what suits you!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 28-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments
Business and quotes

Yesterday was my final meeting for thje meeting season as I call November.  The Racing Association owns about 39% of Phumelela and is thus a major role player in horse racing.  On of my fellow Directors, Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste is a business genius and often has amazing quotes - yesterday I particularly liked this (slightly amended version):

If you are patient enough and you are the hunter with the gun and bullet the prey will come along. You dont need to be anxious, patience will provide results.

The accurate version was more like "the deer will come along" but I prefer the less violent approach above!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 30-Nov-06   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  Comments

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