Be nice! - Durban judge warns

2017-03-28 14:13
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Durban - "Be nice!" This is the warning KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel on Tuesday issued to rude magistrates and judges.

"There are very few problems in court that cannot be dealt with firmly and politely," he said in a judgment.

The matter before him was a review of two rulings made by an unnamed magistrate in a civil trial involving an insurance claim for an accident and about the admissibility of documents.

The magistrate, Ploos van Amstel said, had incorrectly ruled that a witness could not be cross-examined about a police report because it had not yet been ruled admissible.

Overturning the decision, he said it was a serious limitation on the right to cross-examine.

A "further regrettable" matter about which he was obliged to comment, was how the magistrate spoke to lawyers during the trial, including saying "please don't put words into my mouth" and "all right, sit down".

She questioned their competency several times.

"It is important that presiding officers treat legal representatives with courtesy and respect," Ploos van Amstel admonished.

"This is part of the right of access to courts which is guaranteed by our Constitution. A litigant who sees his lawyer being treated with disrespect by a presiding officer may well feel that he is not getting a fair hearing or form the perception that the presiding officer is not as impartial as he or she should be. This has the potential to erode public confidence in or courts."


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