The presiding judge in the legal duel between Magistrate Adrian Fisher (applicant) and the General Legal Council of Sierra Leone (respondent) in the High Court of Sierra Leone yesterday ruled against the applicant and granted leave to the respondent to file affidavits and statement of case in response.
Justice A. Showers said the respondent in the matter, represented by Yada H. Williams and Augustine S. Marah, had applied for an extension of time to file their affidavit in response to the applicant’s application and also its statement of case, out of time.
She noted that the respondent made the application pursuant to Order 3 rule 5(1) of the High Court Rules of 2007.
“Let me state that this is a matter seeking judicial review of the decision of the Respondent refusing to grant the applicant’s application to be admitted to practice law in Sierra Leone pursuant to section 15 of the Legal Practitioner’s Act of 2000 (Act No.15 of 2000) as amended. The Applicant filed an originating notice of motion and affidavit in support thereof on 9th December 2015 and filed its statement of case on 23rd December 2015,” says the presiding judge.
She said the Respondent entered appearance to the originating notice of motion on 17 December, 2015 and filed a notice of intention to cross-examine the deponent, Adrian Fisher, on his affidavit, sworn to on 9 December, 2015.
She said the matter first came up for hearing on 12 January, 2016 but could not proceeded because of “administrative reason”, thus prompting an adjourned, adding that when it came up for hearing on 5 April, 2016, counsel for the Respondent went ahead to apply for leave to cross-examine the deponent, who was in court, which was opposed by the applicant counsel, and that after hearing arguments by both counsel a ruling was delivered on Friday, 11 April, 2016 granting leave to cross-examine the deponent.
She said that at the conclusion of the cross-examination and re-examination of the deponent, counsel for the Respondent then applied for an extension of time to file the affidavit in response to the application and statement of the Respondent’s case.
She said counsel gave reason that he could not have done so earlier and that with both the written and oral evidence of the Applicant now available, it was now appropriate to file their papers as they could not have stated their case without having all the facts.
She noted that counsel for the Applicant opposed grant of an extension of time, relying on Order 52 rule 5(3) of the Rules of the High Court 2007, which gives a Respondent seven days after service of the originating notice of motion on him within which to file his affidavit in response to the application.
She said counsel for the Applicant also cited rule 6(5) of the High Court Rules, which gives a Respondent seven days after service of Applicant’s statement of case on him to file a counter statement of case, thus submitting that his colleague was “clearly way out of time and also emphasized that counsel cannot now make the application after the Applicant has closed his evidence given on cross-examination”.
However, Justice Showers averred that: “I have here set out the circumstances of this case. The question is would justice be done if the court refuses to allow the Respondent to put its case? Counsel for the Respondent has disclosed in his submission that there are other pending applications before the General Legal Council and that this matter would likely serve as a precedent and assist in the Council’s decision making.
“Taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case I do not think it would be in the interest of justice if the Respondent was deprived of the opportunity to be fully heard in this instance, on the basis of a technicality, namely for failure to comply with time limits.
In the light of the foregoing I shall grant the application and order that the respondent file its affidavit in response not later than 7 days of the date of this Order and file its statement of case not later than 5 days thereafter.”
The Applicant, Adrian Fisher, is a former magistrate in the jurisdiction who was convicted of corruption, although he won his appeal subsequently. His wish to practice law in Sierra Leone was blocked the General Legal Council until he attend the Sierra Leone Law School and called to the Bar, insisting the exemption granted by Legal Practitioner’s Act to lawyers from foreign jurisdiction does not apply to Fisher.
Fisher though challenges this, and prays that the High Court of Sierra Leone reviews the Act to pronounce a ruling.