State to reform briefing patterns – Minister
Publish date: 19 May 2017
Issue Number: 4224
Diary: Legalbrief Today
The Department of Justice is in the process of transforming state legal services to ensure a fair‚ non-discriminatory distribution of briefs‚ Justice Minister Michael Masutha said yesterday. He was addressing the media ahead of his budget vote speech in the National Assembly. According to a TimesLIVE report, Masutha said the Department had asked Treasury to assist with the establishment of a ‘framework contract’ that will ensure the fair distribution of briefs to advocates and private law firms. Masutha noted that in 2016/17 the department had paid about R781m to counsel‚ 79% of whom were historically disadvantaged individuals and 26% female counsel.
Black attorneys and advocates – particularly black females – have been marginalised when it comes to the assignment of briefs, Masutha said. Dumisa Ntsebeza, who chairs Advocates for Transformation, raised the issue recently when he said there was not a single black advocate in the Constitutional Court in the case involving the social grants payment system, notes a Business Day report. ‘Nearly 23 years into our democracy, we still find ourselves in a situation where white senior counsels and even their junior counterparts are the first choice of corporate SA, NGOs and the government when it comes to representing them in big cases,’ Ntsebeza said. Also, well-established attorney firms continued to be dominated by white males. According to Law Society of SA statistics for 2016, of the 24 330 attorneys in the country only 6 088 were black males and 3 604 black females.