By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE National Court in Wabag has ticked off lawyers for treating the court like a tap, turning it on and off whenever they wished, and that attendance at hearing is optional.
“Lawyers here better behave more professionally and represent their clients effectively,” Enga’s resident judge Justice Graham Ellis said last Friday.
He made particular reference to two lawyers and described their performance as “sub-standard, to say the least”.
“They need to lift their professionalism, have more respect for the court and, above all, look after their client’s interests better,” the judge said of the two lawyers who failed to turn up to represent their clients on two cases.
Justice Ellis said in the course of a court hearing, it was suggested that this area was PNG’s “wild west”.
“If that is the case, then those lawyers need to realise that while there is a new sheriff in town, and that while he is assisted by good deputies, they are expected to behave like lawyers, not cowboys.
“I do not intend to take up the court’s valuable time, and, thereby, waste public money, listening to feeble excuses from lawyers.
“As the court serves the public, the public are entitled to know what is happening in the court.
“Every non-attendance will be the subject of comment from the bench of this court.
“As a number of media outlets have a standing request that they be provided with a copy of such comments, lawyers who do not attend court for their cases from now run the risk of being labelled as lawyers who provided sub-standard service to their clients,” he said.
He said last Monday, one lawyer failed to appear for the finalisation of his client’s case which had been stood over for two weeks for compensation to be paid. (That case involved a 14-year-old boy who sexually assaulted a nine-year-old schoolboy.)
“Fortunately, the probation officer was able to provide the remaining information which the court required.
“That lawyer has yet to appear in court and has neither explained nor apologised for his absence,” he said.
“When the court commenced last Thursday, the trial of a young man charged with rape, another lawyer was absent.”
Justice Ellis said a letter dated Feb 26, was received by the court only last Friday, saying that the lawyer was in Port Moresby and wanted that case to be adjourned to March 29 and 30.
“The letter wrongly suggested that his client’s case was listed for mention and not for hearing which suggested that the accused’s lawyer was either not present or not listening when his client’s case was fixed for trial more than a month ago.
“As the court’s time is fully booked in order to eliminate the backlog of criminal cases and reduce the backlog of civil cases, the next available date for a criminal trial is not until September.
“In those circumstances, the accused decided to be represented by Mr Kumo from the Public Solicitor’s Office who stepped in and prepared for the hearing at short notice so that it was able to commence after lunch. That case was completed 24 hours later and the accused, instead of having had to wait in prison until September for his trial because of his lawyer, has today (last Friday) been acquitted and released because of the work of Mr Kumo,” Justice Ellis said.