Sunday February 2 2014

Law: A profession with rotten reputation

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

I refer to the Uganda Legal Profession. You have heard the public accusation that all lawyers are liars. Shakespeare is reported to have said that if society is to be protected, the first thing to do is to kill all lawyers.
In today’s world of politics, business and social engineering, there are many lawyers whose acts, practices and behaviour are a disgrace to their profession. Many lawyers are proud to have accumulated wealth and notoriety through corruption, deception and the protection of despicable clients of their respective communities.

Many Ugandan lawyers previously held in high esteem have ruined their reputation by blind and unprofessional pursuit of rotten but rich gains invariably at the expense of unsuspecting members of society.

They have represented thieving clients with deception and manipulation of the law.
A number of advocates have been caught wallowing in conflicts of interest by disgracefully representing opposing litigants at the same time.

These are advocates who practise law maliciously with enrichment and acquisition of wealth as the only motive that matter. At one time the profession was regarded as a service to the community but today most lawyers and Law students see Law practice as the quickest route to wealth.

Some lawyers resent and fight against their colleagues who still harbour the notions of ethics and integrity or who continue dreaming that the profession is something resembling a service to litigants. Long gone are the notions of practising Law in the pursuit of principles, the law and justice.

The new trends of understanding of most successful lawyers in Uganda include lying and deceiving litigants, judges and others that what is wrong is right, what is corrupt is gainful of great wealth and the lastly never annoy or oppose those who have status or who possess and exercise it, or are companions of the rulers and the mighty.

Few lawyers who still cling to the principle that Law is a noble and intended to protect the weak and reward the innocent are laughed at as dinosaurs in the profession. Members of the public are actively discouraged from engaging honest and principled lawyers as their advocates and legal representatives because of the campaigns and false stories told about them.

The most unfortunate consequence of the rotten eggs in the legal profession is that often the same rotten eggs are appointed or promoted to become judges in the Judiciary. No Ugandan needs to be reminded that if one includes rotten ingredients in a brew, the brew can never taste good or wholesome whatever one does to correct the taste or deceive the consumers.

Judicial nominees are recommended and appointed unconstitutionally simply because they are loyal cadres to the establishment. In this regard, it would be unfair to blame the incumbent government alone.

Evidence is available to show that several members of the so-called opposition parties happily, selfishly and enthusiastically nominate and support the same rotten eggs in the Law to become judges and other categories of judicial officers because of diverse reasons.

Meanwhile, the media, with very few exceptions, continue to be silent on this grave matter or individual journalists are silenced for causes best known to themselves.

Recently, the Uganda Law Society passed excellent recommendations for the improvement of the Legal profession and the Judiciary. The Speaker of Parliament and the Minister of Justice enthusiastically welcomed this bold and unprecedented move by the Uganda Law Society.

After one or two judges expressed opposition against those recommendations. It is then said that the few lawyers who control and manipulate the election of the Law Society’s officers for its mismanagement met clandestinely and decided to oppose the implementation of the recommendations. Nothing more has ever been heard since.

The only surprising thing is that even the Minister of Justice who had sworn to enforce them has since been forced to hide his impotent bravado between his legs. What about Civil Society Organisation? Please keep silent about that lest you are to become a victim of corrupt lawyers and judicial officers.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.