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Judicial approaches to poverty

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The first in our series of seminars bringing together current and former acting judges to discuss the issues they face in courtrooms took place on 30 May 2019

It goes without saying that our courts have a seminal role to play in upholding human rights and the rule of law in our country. Our judges sit at the forefront of one of the most important mechanisms we have for establishing accountability and justice in the face of human rights abuses. It is thus critical for judges, and all officers of the court, to perform their duties in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.

CALS has litigated for years at many different levels of our court system, and we have come to observe a number of patterns in how judges approach some of our matters. Of particular concern to us are the ongoing problems we see in the adjudication of evictions and sexual offences, as well as the awarding of cost orders in public interest litigation.

In light of this, we have introduced a new project in our Rule of Law Programme which involves hosting a series of informal seminars bringing together aspirant judges and acting or former judges together with court clerks and legal researchers to discuss these issues and find possible solutions. By the end of the seminars, participants should know how to adjudicate in a way that does not discriminate against people living in poverty or victimise complainants in sexual offences matters, as well as know where it is appropriate to award costs in public interest litigation.

The first seminar took place on 30 May 2019 with the theme ‘Judicial Approaches to Poverty’ and was chaired by advocate Lunga Siyo. We hope to use the seminars to develop a set of best practices for officers of the court. We look forward to the seminars to come and trust they will be equally constructive discussions.