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Strengthening the capacity of the High Court of Lesotho

This project aimed to strengthen the capacity of the High Court of Lesotho, through building its capacity in case management, judgement writing and judicial administration systems and procedures

Country: Lesotho
Host: High Court of Lesotho
Start date: 05/01/2010
End date: 30/06/2014
Policy area: Rule of Law
Policy expert: Mark Guthrie
Project manager: Tim Newman

Background

In 2009, the High Court suffered from a lack of case management, practice directions or adequate court rules. Procedures allowed cases to be driven by counsel rather than the judge and the method of listing cases resulted in judges often having to adjourn through lack of court time. Furthermore, there were no judges experienced in commercial matters and some locally appointed judges lacked in-depth experience in applying the substantive law when dealing with complex issues of fact and law in the High Court.

This all affected the quality of judgments, the efficient management of cases, and the speed with which judgments were being delivered. Judges were also not making proper use of the court recesses to catch up on any outstanding judgments. The result being, a backlog of cases. This was particularly acute in the commercial court as this had a direct effect on investor confidence and the general business environment in Lesotho.

A project was therefore developed in collaboration with the High Court to strengthen the capacity of the High Court of Lesotho, through building its capacity in case management, judgment writing and judicial administration systems and procedures, in order to enable the High Court to deliver an effective, efficient and collaborative judicial service according to international standards of compliance and performance.

Goal

This project aimed to strengthen the capacity of the High Court of Lesotho, through building its capacity in case management, judgement writing and judicial administration systems and procedures, in order to enable the High Court to deliver an effective, efficient and collaborative judicial service according to international standards of compliance and performance.

The project focussed on the Commercial Court division of the High Court, though it was intended that practices and systems established in the Commercial Court would be adopted throughout the High Court system in time.

Impact

The provision of an expert Court Administration Adviser and an experienced High Court Judge, and a collaboration with the United States Millennium Challenge Account (who built and equipped new Commercial Court premises), provided Lesotho with an effectively functioning commercial court. The Commercial Court of Lesotho was inaugurated in February 2013.

This was a crucial aspect in the delivery of justice and directly affected economic prospects as investors (domestic and foreign) gained confidence in the legal system. Accordingly, Lesotho benefited from jumping 17 places in the World Bank ‘Doing Business’ scale from 156 to 139 between 2012 and 2013.

Indicators of particular note are protection of investors (147 to 100) and enforcing contracts (154 to 139), both of which require a strong judicial environment.

Outputs
  1. Interim case management software was installed and is now in use
  2. Case management statistics are now accurately produced and used by the Government of Lesotho for performance measurement
  3. The commercial case backlog of over 300 cases was cleared
  4. One high court judge was brought into the high court and mentored to assume responsibility for the Commercial Court on departure of the CFTC judge
  5. Rules of court were prepared and approved
  6. A docket system was adopted in seven of nine chambers of the High Court
  7. A commercial bar was developed.