Bill threatens independence - attorneys

2013-11-13 16:50

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Cape Town - The legal practice bill passed by the National Assembly this week risks hampering the effective functioning of the legal profession, the SA Attorney's Association said on Wednesday.

"It is regrettable that some of the provisions of the bill will make inroads into the profession's ability to remain viable, effective and competent," it said.

The association singled out the wide ministerial powers conferred by the bill for criticism, notably that to nominate members of the new, single statutory council that will replace all existing law societies.

"The minister will have wide regulatory powers, previously held by the law societies, including the determination of fees for legal services, the issuing of regulations regarding community service and the power to appoint an interim council after dissolving the Legal Practice Council pursuant to a court order," it said.

It also voiced fears that the provisions of the legislation aimed at ensuring that the legal profession was transformed to reflect the racial demographics of the country could be abused "to restrict entry into the profession".

The controversial bill was finally passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday after nearly two decades in the pipeline, despite strong objections from the opposition and from the profession.

In the debate on the bill, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe conceded that consensus had not been reached but said the search for it could not continue forever.

He insisted that government had a legitimate interest in ensuring that the constitutional imperative of transformation of the judiciary became a reality.

Opposition parties said the bill would damage the advocate's profession, though the bill stopped short of its original intention of fusing it with that of attorneys, and undermine the independence of the legal fraternity.

Read more on:    jeff radebe  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013

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