Judges in the Eastern Cape are so fed up with lawyers ripping off their clients that they have set up a committee to “stop the rot”.
This emerges from a judgment in a case involving an East London attorney who signed a contingency agreement with a man who was seriously injured when a bakkie mowed him down in the Queenstown township of Ezibeleni in 2014.
After calling the conduct of Bulelani Rubushe “unscrupulous‚ rapacious and unconscionable‚” Judge Clive Plasket said: “Unfortunately‚ in this jurisdiction‚ this is a problem that is all too common.”
Plasket said the cases that ended up in court were “in all likelihood‚ but the tip of the iceberg”.
He added: “In Grahamstown‚ a local costs consultant has been so alarmed by the abuses he has come across in the course of his work that he wrote a detailed memorandum to the judges of the Eastern Cape division.”
This is what led to the judges’ committee‚ which will look into what Plasket called “a manifestation of endemic corruption embedded in the attorneys’ profession”.
Plasket said a copy of his judgment would be sent to the Cape Law Society so that “as custodian of the ethical standards of the profession… it may consider ways and means of stopping the rot”.
If the contigency agreement Rubushe signed with Zama Mfengwana had been allowed to stand‚ the lawyer would have collected 25% of the R904 889 the accident victim was awarded from the Road Accident Fund.
Plasket scrapped the agreement‚ saying it contravened the Contingency Fees Act‚ amounted to “overreaching on an outrageous scale” and was “cause for very serious concern”.
Instead‚ he said‚ Rubushe should be paid standard fees for work that he said “leaves much to be desired”. – Tiso Black Star Group Digital/The Times