‘Lazy’ judges to face the music

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter—

A High Court judge is likely to be brought before a disciplinary committee by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over poor performance and is now being viewed as a liability in the justice delivery system.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the official opening of the 2017 legal year on Monday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku did not name the judge, but said there was reasonable concern about the judge’s ability to perform.

“There are, however, one or two judges whose performance remains unacceptably poor,” he said. “In one instance, the Judicial Service Commission directed me to write a letter of reprimand to the judge concerned.”

The JSC, said Chief Justice Chidyausiku, dismissed the ‘’flimsy’’ excuses given by the judge who claimed had cleared all the cases assigned.

“The judge in question was warned of disciplinary action in the event of no improved performance,” he said.

The JSC has been criticised for basing its assessment of the performance of the individual judges solely on the written judgments bearing HH (High Court Harare) and HB (High Court Bulawayo) numbers.

But the modern trend is to minimise the writing of formal judgments that may, in fact, satisfy neither of the parties affected.

There is a shift even in the courts towards the use of other equally effective alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, conciliations, compromise and arbitration.

A judge with a high degree of success in achieving settlements out of court is no less hardworking than the next judge with a higher number of HH and HB judg-ments.

Apart from dealing with HH and HB judgments, the judges also deal with other matters which the JSC seems not to consider such as trial matters, opposed and unopposed applications, chamber applications, pre-trial conferences, electoral and fiscal matters, civil and criminal appeals and criminal reviews.

In 2015, Chief Justice Chidyausiku torched a storm after he criticised “under-performing” High Court judges during the official opening of the 2015 judicial year.

He claimed that one of the judges had managed to deliver only two judgments during the course of the year.

The High Court judges hit back, saying Chief Justice Chidyausiku was out of touch with the modern judiciary delivery trends. They wrote a petition to him demanding that he withdraw his statement, which they said was made in bad faith.

Two years after the criticism, most High Court judges’ performance has vastly improved.

The outgoing Chief Justice Chidyausiku said he had no regrets over his criticism of the performance by all judicial officers, especially by High Court judges.

He said he was happy that since that date, most judges’ performance had improved remarkably.

“In some instances, the performance of those judges who had previously underperformed has surpassed my expectations,” he said.

Article Source: The Herald