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Law Society faces huge legal bill

By Caswell Tlali

MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho faces a M500 000 legal bill as cost of suit for the 2010 case it lost when it challenged the conferment of the title of the King’s Counsel to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane in 2009.
The law society will soon receive the half a million maloti invoice from Webber Newdigate, the law firm hired by the government to represent the Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe who the society had cited as respondents in its court papers.
Thetsane, who was the main target of the lawsuit, represented himself.
The law society had opposed the conferment of the title of King’s Counsel to Thetsane saying “his appearance in the courts of Lesotho particularly the superior courts was minuscule.”
It also argued that Thetsane was not worthy of receiving the King’s Counsel title because “he had not rendered a distinguished service in the practice of the law because of the fact that he hardly, if ever, he does appear in the courts of law.”
“Third, his contribution to the capacity building and mentoring of his juniors was almost non-existent,” the law society argued.
The High Court and the Court of Appeal late last year turned down the society’s application and awarded costs of suit to the respondents.
The society had cited chief justice Lehohla as a respondent in his capacity as the recommender for conferment and the attorney general Makhethe as the nominal representative of the government.
After losing the case the law society was ordered to pay the cost of suit.
On Friday Webber Newdigate were supposed to appear before the Taxing Master of the High Court as part of preparations to bill the law society.
Webber Newdigate’s Gerhardus Roberts engaged a South African senior counsel, GH Penzhorn, and his junior advocate, Roland Suhr, to appear for chief justice and the attorney general.
The law society says it does not understand why it has to pay the cost of suit to Webber Newdigate.
Their argument is that the chief justice, whom Webber Newdigate claims to have represented, had said he had no interest in challenging the law suit.
They said after they cited him the chief justice submitted an affidavit saying he had no desire to involve himself in the case.
His reason was that the case was before the same court he heads as the chief justice.
“It is also not my wish to involve myself in this particular matter. I accordingly abide by the decision of the courts,” said the chief justice in his affidavit.
The law society says that affidavit indicates that the chief justice did not need legal representation.
It says because the chief justice had said he did not want to be involved in the litigation there was no need for the attorney general to seek legal representation.
The law society says the only reason the attorney general was cited was because the chief justice had been mentioned.
The law society does not understand why the attorney general incurred such a huge bill when his role was actually to defend the chief justice who had absolved himself from the litigation.
In fact the law society says it should not pay anything because Thetsane, the person they were suing, had represented himself.
“This is tantamount to paying legal fees for the DPP despite that he was sued in his personal capacity,” said Law Society president, Zwelakhe Mda. “Being the DPP does not mean that the state is obliged to cover his personal legal fees,” he said.
Mda said the case was directly against Thetsane as a person while the attorney general was only cited as the nominal representative of the government roped in merely because the chief justice was cited.
“The chief justice said he would only abide by the decision of the court because he did not want to involve himself in the case,” Mda said.
Roberts’s notice of taxation sent to the registrar of Court of Appeal on Friday shows that the Law Society will have to pay M488 098.
The notice shows that from June 16 last year to October 6 the Law Society should pay M210 098.90 as cost of suit after Penzhorn and Suhr attended the Court of Appeal case.
In addition to that, a letter Penzhorn wrote to Makhethe shows that Suhr charged M54 000 for preparing heads of argument for the appeal hearing and time spent on it, which is two and a half days.
Penzhorn and Suhr charged an additional M49 764.15 for preparing heads of argument in August and September 2010. On September 27 Surh charged a further M36 800, which was two-thirds of Penzhorn’s charges.
On October 6, Penzhorn charged M44 496.75 for preparation, travel from Durban, appearance in court and accommodation at the Lesotho Sun Hotel.
Efforts to get a comment from Makhethe and Thetsane were not successful.

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