Allocation of work to state attorneys murky, report finds
THE Public Service Commission (PSC) says the system used by the state attorney’s offices to allocate work to advocates is not transparent.
In a report released this week, the commission said an estimated seven out of 10 court cases involved the government and were litigated by the state attorney’s office. The office was widely acknowledged as a key player in transforming the legal profession by ensuring black and women counsel get briefed, the report said.
One of the things the PSC looked into, prompted by judicial complaints about the quality of the work of the state attorney’s office, was its briefing patterns.
There was no policy in place for briefing counsel, although one was being developed, said the report.
Even though the state attorneys did brief a majority of black and women counsel, only a few and the same black and women advocates were given preference.
There were allegations that some counsel were given more briefs or briefs in more complex matters, "depending on their political affiliation or ‘kickbacks’," the report stated.
Also, higher rates were paid to some advocates of equal seniority.
"The same person is briefed time and time again. Black members who do not belong to a certain group are not briefed despite their competence and skills. Few women are briefed in commercial matters," one respondent was quoted as saying.
However the "acting state attorney" — not named in the report — said the culprits were the client departments, which insisted on appointing counsel of their choice. The acting state attorney said a resolution was taken in September last year that the heads of offices should have the final say and would monitor the allocation of briefs.
One respondent alleged that a minimum of R3,000 was charged by corrupt employees to get a brief. When the acting state attorney tried to investigate, however, there was no evidence to support the allegation.