What you need to know:
- The judge reasoned that Mr Muwema did not professionally advise businessman Patrick Bitature not to institute a case court said “catastrophically lacked a legal basis.”
Lawyer Fred Muwema has blamed his legal costs condemnation woes on the Judiciary’s new filing system, which he says has “glaring inefficiencies”.
The new Judiciary filing system known as Electronic Court Case Management Information System (ECCMIS) enables litigants and lawyers to file and follow their cases online.
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The lawyer’s remarks followed a Tuesday ruling by Commercial Court judge Stephen Mubiru in the case involving businessman Patrick Bitature and a South African firm, Vantage Mezzanine Fund II Partnership, which condemned Mr Muwema to pay the legal costs of his client (Mr Bitature).
The judge reasoned that Mr Muwema did not professionally advise the businessman and his companies not to institute a case that he said “catastrophically lacked a legal basis”.
“The legal costs and time wasted in this litigation could have been avoided entirely if the applicants’ advocates (Mr Muwema) had discharged their duties to the expected minimum standards of professional competence. It qualifies as a rare and exceptional case where it would not be fair for the applicants to bear the costs,” Justice Mubiru ruled.
He added: “The costs must be met by the applicants’ advocates in person. Consequently, the application is hereby dismissed. The costs of this application will be met personally by counsel on record for the applicants.”
However, in a statement issued yesterday, Mr Muwema said the ruling was based on the apparent “misinformation” or “malfunction” of the ECCMIS.
“This ruling adumbrates the glaring deficiencies of the Electronic Court Case Management Information System (ECCMIS) which most advocates and court users have been complaining about,” Mr Muwema said.
“From the above narrative, it is evident that the decision and ruling of the court was based on apparent misinformation or malfunction of the ECCMIS. This error cannot be hypnotised on the advocates who do not manage the system and have been wrongly cited for imaginary negligent conduct in this case.
Whereas, we have been instructed by our clients to appeal the impugned ruling to the court of appeal for the above and other reasons, we wish to note, however, that an inefficient ECCMIS may become an impediment to the administration of justice in the courts where it is being piloted in Uganda,” he added.
The lawyer warned that the efficiency of ECCMIS must be streamlined immediately before other advocates and litigants fall victim to its alleged malfunctions.
He suggested that the system be suspended until robust capacity to put it to good use is acquired by the Judiciary.
When contacted, Judiciary’s Public Relations Officer Jamson Karemani said the institution would soon issue a statement in rebuttal to Mr Muwema’s allegations of inefficiency of ECCMIS.
In his Tuesday ruling, Justice Mubiru gave a greenlight to creditor Vantage Mezzanine Fund II partnership, to privately prosecute Mr Bitature and his wife Carol.
“The applicants’ (the Bitatures and their companies) need for such protection must be weighed against the corresponding need of the respondents (Vantage) to be protected against injury resulting from being prevented from exercising their own legal rights for which it may not be adequately compensated in damages if uncertainty were resolved in its favour at the trial,” Justice Mubiru ruled.
Counsel Muwema’s complaint on Judiciary
• The said application was given a draft No DRFT HCT-00-CC-MA-0408-2022 under the ECCMIS system and upon the mandatory validation exercise by the court registrar, the said application obtained a new number HCT-00-CC-MA-0332-2022.
• We also filed an application for a temporary injunction which was given a draft No 0414 of 2022 and it was also given a validation final application No 331 of 2022 by the court registrar. An extract from the ECCMIS system confirming both entries is attached for ease of reference.
• So, by the time we appeared for the hearing of the temporary injunction before the land trial judge Justice Steven Mubiru, the final application numbers were already in the court system.
-Since the ECCMIS is presented as a quintessential system which is inter-operable so as to expedite court processes, it came as a surprise when court claimed both at the hearing and in the ruling that our contempt application was not on the system.
• It even came as a bigger surprise that the court it self was confused by the system when it issued the ruling under draft application No 0414 of 2022 instead of the final application No 331 of 2022. Why would a final ruling be issued under a draft application if the system is indeed reliable?