Newly confirmed Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda has vowed to deal with any attempts of ‘judge shopping’, saying the malpractice defeats the objective of justice dispensation and compromises the integrity of the Judiciary.
Speaking in an interview in Mzuzu on Tuesday, Nyirenda said ‘judge shopping’ is a serious concern and there is need to devise ways of curbing it.
He said the country should not embrace the malpractice because when lawyers look for particular judges who can make decisions in their favour, integrity is compromised.
Nyirenda said in a case where ‘judge shopping’ has taken place, there is no impartiality in the delivery of justice.
He committed himself to addressing the concerns once an opportunity arises to safeguard the justice system
Said Nyirenda: “We must find ways of dealing with that. We must certainly, as an institution, curb any attempt to judge shopping and the way it is manifested, we must be decisive about it.”
Ironically, Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John Suzi-Banda said his office was yet to come across genuine complaints of ‘judge shopping’.
However, Suzi-Banda said if there are such complaints, people should not be afraid to present evidence to MLS, arguing silence will not help matters
He said: “The issue of ‘judge shopping’ is not that critical. It is hard for Malawi Law Society, the Chief Justice and even the Judicial Service Commission to deal with rumours.
“If people suspect any fishy dealing on how a judge or lawyer has performed his duty, it is important for them to bring documents and present them to us then we will investigate. If it has to do with a judge, we will present the matter to Chief Justice.”
‘Judge shopping’ is a tendency among lawyers in collaboration with court clerks who, among other things, “scout” for their preferred judges whom they believe would dispense justice in their favour.
No research has established how severe the practice is in Malawi, but there have been cases where the courts have thrown out applications to avoid speculations of ‘judge shopping’.
Over the years, speculations about ‘judge shopping’ have been heightened by the tendency by some lawyers to opt to have their cases filed and heard in a particular High Court registry, usually away from both their base and that of their clients.