Justice Bamwine urges lawyers to offer free services to the poor
Posted Friday, March 1 2013 at 02:00
Demand for justice. Justice Yorokamu Bamwine says many lawyers consider the provision of private legal services in a pure business sense.
The Principal Judge, Justice Yorokamu Bamwine, has urged advocates to occasionally represent clients free of charge.
Justice Bamwine said this would ensure poor people, who are the majority, get justice.
“The idea of Pro bono is usually not well-received by lawyers. Many consider the provision of private legal services in a pure business sense. I appeal to the bar to think of the majority of our people who cannot afford legal services yet they, too, are entitled to justice,” Justice Bamwine said during the Uganda Law Society Pro Bono Day in Kampala yesterday.
He added that rarely does the government facilitate the provision of free legal services to needy people.
The ambassador of the Netherlands to Uganda, Mr Alphons Hennekens, urged the government to “allocate more resources towards legal aid”.
The president of the Uganda Law Society, Mr James Mukasa Sebugenyi, said the society would ensure its members handle at least one case for free at a particular time.
Mr Ssebugenyi said at the end of each year, lawyers would be required to indicate which case or client they served Pro bono.
Justice Bamwine said some of the lawyers are expensive even for “cases that ordinarily would not deserve a day in court”.
The Principal Judge’s remarks come against the backdrop of Sh13 billion awarded to a city lawyer who had petitioned court, challenging a parliamentary resolution. The House had asked three Cabinet ministers accused of accepting bribes from foreign oil companies to push for the firms’ interests in Uganda, to resign from their positions.
Mr Hennekens said the use of the formal court system to resolve cases is painfully slow.
“[This] is often because of the sheer number of cases logged in the judicial system, lack of efficiency in the management of the court cases or even at times due to greedy lawyers seeking delays to inflate their fees,” said Mr Hennekens.
He urged lawyers to explore amicable settlement in the interest of justice since “justice delayed is justice denied”.
The Democratic Governance Facility (Austria, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom) is facilitating the scheme, which will see 880 lawyers in 11 districts hand some cases pro bono.