Judges told to stay home
Eastern Cape judge-president Selby Mbenenge has issued directives for the management of the province’s high courts during the lockdown period.
The directives follow a delegation of authority by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to all heads of courts in SA, including those leading high and magistrate’s courts.
Mogoeng said in a letter circulated on Tuesday that the delegation of authority would ensure access to courts “in relation to any urgent matter, bail applications, maintenance and domestic violence related matters and cases involving children”.
He said the courts were also empowered to pronounce on the validity of a state of emergency and related matters.
“Courts therefore have to stay open in case members of the public want to bring one challenge or another in relation to the constitutionality or the validity of the measures being implemented.”
The year’s first high court term will end on Friday and the second term is scheduled to start on Monday, April 13, three days before the national lockdown is due to be lifted.
Mbenenge said in a directive distributed by the judiciary’s media office that all judicial officers must stay away from court precincts during the lockdown period, unless their presence was “reasonably required” for official duties.
All civil cases and appeals set down for hearing during the first week of term would be removed from the roll and given preferential dates after the lockdown period.
However, settlement orders could be presented to the senior judge on civil trial duty in the first week of the new term.
He said court managers and registrars would develop and circulate a roster of officials who will be on duty during the lockdown period.
Suspending Friday “trial roll calls” throughout the lockdown, Mbenenge urged practitioners to ensure that cases were “trial ready in accordance with practice in this division”. Alternatively, he said that cases should be removed from the roll.
The start-of-term meeting of judges would be postponed to a date to be arranged.