Exorbitant legal fees undermine justice system – judge
Charging exorbitant legal fees was undermining the integrity of the justice system, warned KZN Judge President Achmat Jappie. According to a Cape Argus report, he told delegates at a three-day International Conference on Access to Justice, Legal Costs and Other Interventions in Durban that legal fees were too expensive because the judiciary was not involved in cost management. ‘We cannot let this (exorbitant legal costs) go on. If you want respect for the law you have got to make the law respectable, and exorbitant fees do not only hinder access to justice, but it also makes us look very, very bad,’ he said. The delegates also touched on the Legal Aid SA budget cut over the next three years, which is estimated at R503m. Justice and Correctional Service Deputy Minister John Jeffery said the cut was a concern since legal aid provided free legal service to the poor. ‘It is not something that has been finalised, but I think the public needs to keep an eye on the issue,’ he said. Lawyers for Human Rights’ Mametlwe Sebei told delegates that the cut ‘would have serious implications to the poor’. And Legal Practice Council member Krish Govender said instead of slashing the budget, the government should ‘be putting R5bn more into legal aid’. Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo called for legal aid to be more accessible to poor communities in rural areas.