One of Malawi’s leading judges and administrative head of the regional registry of the High Court, Justice Esmie Chombo has exposed the corruption among lawyers in Malawi and accused the lawyers’ body, the Malawi Law Society, for failing to police its members.
Against what the Judge describes as “serious allegations”, she has challenged the watchdog of lawyers to take “urgent action.”
The letter is dated January 18, 2018 and addressed to Malawi Law Society. President Judge Khumbo Soko, Chombo diplomatically admonishes the society for not assisting the judges in fighting corruption in the judiciary system.
“We are making efforts to create an environment where corruption is a thing of the past. Your help as a legal fraternity is critical and welcome….,” reads Chombo’s letter in part.
The High Court judge borders on accusing the law society’s complicity of silence when she reminds the lawyers’ watchdog of agreements they never acted on.
In the letter, the Judge reminds Malawi Law Society of the consultation meeting held in 2017 between the judges and the lawyers’ body. At that meeting the judges raised concerns with the conduct of lawyers.
However the society apparently has not been acting on the judges’ concerns nor does it seem interested in further consultations to clear the mess in its ranks.
“I do not believe that these consultations should be driven by the Hon Chief Justice. We would therefore welcome resumption of the consultations as a means of nipping these obnoxious practices before they took deep roots,” urges Chombo in her reproach.
In the letter, the eminent judge accuses the learned men and women of the following:
1. Bribing court clerks to prioritize their work instead of legitimate court work. Court clerks are not employees of lawyers. They are employees of government. Chombo describes this conduct as unprofessional and corrupt.
2.Stealing government resources as they entice court clerks to use government stationery, computers and time to type their work instead of using their own secretaries at their offices.
3. Bribing court staff to remove from court files documents from the other party to mislead the court that the lawyer from the other side did not file the necessary documents in good time.
4. Bribing court staff to insert documents in court files to fool the judges into thinking that the papers were filed in good time.
5. Bribing court staff for them to misplace or destroy case files to frustrate court proceedings.
6. Bribing court staff to open a new file and present the matter as a fresh one before a different judge when the last judge handling the matter declined an application the lawyer was looking for.
7. Bribing court reporters and secretaries to do the typing work for lawyers at the expense of the work for the employers of the court reporters and secretary, namely government.
8. Frequenting court registries at night and during weekends to execute their shady dealings.
This exposure shows interactive corruption between private practising lawyers and the judiciary.
The letter vindicates President Peter Mutharika who has been saying corruption includes the private sector and the media, beyond the executive arm of government.