Understanding the Law
January 25, 2013
Adjournments and errors

There are many times when you have your matter in court set for a particular date, but when you turn up the matter cannot be heard.Do not despair, because matters may be adjourned for various reasons. You will still have your day in court. {{more}}


There are many reasons for adjournments and it must be understood that there are many players in each matter. Each person is vital to the case and must be present at the hearing. The persons who are vital to the case are the judge, the claimant and his lawyer, the defendant and his lawyer and witnesses, where necessary.

The judge may adjourn for any good reason, such as illness, if any one of these persons cannot be in court on the date on which the matter is heard. If a courtroom is not available, the matter may likely be adjourned. In adjourning the matter, the judge will fix the matter for the next available court date, but this could be the next week or several weeks after. The person who is absent has a right to inform the court and the other party, if he will be absent. The other person involved has a duty to turn up in court so as to receive the adjourned date. Non-appearance without an excuse could cause the case to go against the defendant. The other side that is present could ask the court to hear the matter ex parte (without the defendant). The plaintiff, too, can have his matter thrown out for want of prosecution, especially if he is consistently absent.

Two errors

Claim No. HCVAP 2012 /026 Stanford International Bank Limited (Liquidator) v Robert Allen Stanford exhibits two errors outside the case which had consequences for the case itself. The matter is an interlocutory matter (not the substantial matter). In that matter, a judge granted leave to the appellant liquidator to serve court proceedings on one of the respondents out of the jurisdiction. The respondent objected and filed an application, along with affidavits and submissions. When the matter was heard, to set aside the order to serve documents out of the jurisdiction, the judge was unaware that the liquidators had filed affidavits and submissions. He mentioned in his ruling that the liquidator had not opposed the application. This statement in the judgment brought the issue to the attention of the liquidator. Actually the filed documents were not placed on the court file by the Registry staff, so there was none for the judge to consider.

The second judge gave his ruling some six months after the hearing of the matter and he claimed that the file was not available, as the registry staff could not find it. Even after the file turned up, it still did not have the missing affidavits and submissions.

The judge in the third hearing decided that there was no fairness because of what transpired. The second ruling was therefore set aside and the first, which ordered the service outside the jurisdiction, was restored. The trial judge also ruled that there should a rehearing of the matter. Errors may occur, but they could be corrected at some time. If they are not corrected, then there could be a miscarriage of justice.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com