Jun 2015

New system expected to improve access to justice

Albert Pule
The new case flow management system implemented by the Judiciary at different courts is expected to continue to have a positive impact of the clogged case roll.

Case flow management broadly entails the assignment and allocation of cases to a judicial officer at the earliest opportunity and the responsibility of that judicial officer to manage the flow of that case in an efficient and effective manner to ensure its speedy finalisation. According to convener of the new system and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Judge Stevan Majiedt, the system has reduced the clogged case roll. “

A very good indication is the time parties have to wait to be assigned a trial date. In the larger divisions parties would have to wait in excess of 2 year to be assigned a trial date, and cases could take in excess of 3 years to be finalised due to postponements,” says Judge Majiedt. The new system is led by a Judicial Case Flow Management Committee (JCFMC) comprising of judges from all divisions of the High Court and of the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court. In 2012, a pilot project of the new system was implemented in three of the biggest court divisions in the country comprising of five pilots sites namely Gauteng (North and South) High Court, the Western Cape High Court and KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg and Durban) High Court. Judge Majiedt says since the implementation of the pilot, the three divisions has seen a decrease in the waiting period of trials and a reduction of the cases on the roll, particularly at the Gauteng North High Court (Pretoria).

“In Gauteng, the waiting period for a trial date has been reduced from 1 year to 9 months at the start of the project the Pretoria Court had 224 921 outstanding cases on the civil roll, this has been reduced to 144 027 by February 2015. “In the Western Cape, once certified trial ready, a trial date can be allocated for the following term. Before the implementation of case flow management the waiting time for the allocation of a trial date was in excess of 2 years,” He added that other divisions have seen a decline in the waiting periods for trials. “All divisions have noted a marked decline in the time periods for the allocation of trial dates. In many of the smaller division, the waiting period is as low as 6 weeks.” Due to its success at the five pilot sites, the judiciary is planning to implement the system at lower courts. “Separate from the pilot project at the high courts, case flow management has been taking place at the lower court level, though not under the same directives as the pilot project.

The Chief Justice has expressed his wish to have the lower courts included in this project. “Once the drafting committee has finalised its work, the JCFMC will then, with the Magistrates’ Commission and the leadership of the magistracy investigate how best to implement Judicial Case Flow Management at the lower courts,” explained Judge Majiedt.

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