Court name
HC: Civil Division (Uganda)
Case number
HCT-04-CV- MA-2016/143
Judgment date
6 May 2017

Okodoi & Anor v Okello (HCT-04-CV- MA-2016/143) [2017] UGHCCD 121 (06 May 2017);

Cite this case
[2017] UGHCCD 121
Coram
Kawesa, J

THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA

IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA

HOLDEN AT MBALE

 

HCT-04-CV- MA- 0143 OF 2016

(ARISING FROM MISC. APPLICATION NO. 70 OF 2015)

(ALL ARISING FROM HCCS NO. 0001 OF 2012)

 

  1. OKODOI GEORGE
  2. OBWARET VINCENT                               ::::::::::                        APPELLANTS

VERSUS

OKELLO OPAIRE SAM                            :::::::::::                      RESPONDENT

 

 

BEFORE: HON. MR. JUSTICE HENRY I. KAWESA

 

RULING

 

This is an application by Chamber Summons under sections 62(1) of the Advocates Act (as amended) Regulation 3(1) of Advocates (Taxation of costs) Appeals and (References) Regulations (S1 - 267-51) for orders  that;

  1.  The learned  Registrar’s  order  taxing the Respondent’s bill of costs  filed by M/s  Sanywa, Wabwire & Co. Advocates of Shs  12,337,000/= be  quashed for  being  manifestly  high and  excessive  for  allowing  to tax  a bill of  costs filed by a law firm  not  on record.
  2.  That  court orders that the Respondent files a fresh  bill of costs  through the law firm  on record being  M/S  Waluku , Mooli  and  Co.  Advocates and taxes the same.
  3.  Costs of the appeal  be  provided  for.

 

 The grounds are supported by the affidavit in support by Okodoi George.

The respondent filed an affidavit  in reply by Okello Opaire Sam which controverts the averments by appellants.

The  appellants’ counsel in his  submissions in Chief raised a Preliminary  Objection regarding  the  efficacy  of this  affidavit in reply , but   abandoned it  in his  submissions in rejoinder. The Preliminary Objection is therefore overruled.

 

In his submissions  both  in chief  and rejoinder appellant  argued that the award  of  12,337,000 was  manifestly high and excessive and ought  to be taxed down.

He contended that the bill was prepared by a firm not on record and hence the firm of M/s Sanywa, Wabwire & Co. Advocates are precluded from claiming, instruction fees.

 

The appellant relied on the case  of Ebrahim A. Kassim and  2 Others  Vs. Habre International  Ltd  SC Civil Ref.  16  of 1999 where  the  Supreme Court  held:

With  regard   to the complaint  that  the present  Advocate  was  awarded  costs for  work  done  in the High  Court  by other  Advocates  the  position  of change  of  Advocates is clearly  stated  under  par. 16  of the 3rd  schedule . It provides that (1) if there   has been a change of Advocates the Bill of costs of the   first Advocate may be   annexed to that of the current Advocate and the total shown as disbursement.

(2)  The bill shall be taxed in the ordinary way, the current Advocate being heard on it, but the taxing officer may require the first Advocate to attend. The position is self explanatory and does not need much comment.”

 

The appellant  argues that the bill was  drawn  by a firm  of  “ Sanya Wabwire” who  had no  instructions  in the matter  since there was no  “ notice of  change  of Advocates”

 

Respondent though argued that the cases of Ebrahim Kassim V Habre (Supra) is distinguishable. They referred to Haji Hortjana Mtylanga V. Sharif Osman  referred  to  in  Ebrahim Kassim V Habre Court . Respondent argues that  while in Haji  Hortjana case ( Supra) the   Advocate’s  costs  were  lumped  together  with costs due  to a  former  Advocate  who had represented  the client , in  this  case  the  Respondent  was  previously  being  represented   by Counsel  Wabwire  Dennis  who  was  trading  under   the  law  firm  of  Waluku, Mooli &  Co.  Advocates who later opened up his own chambers.

 

Counsel argues that the failure to file a Notice of Change of Advocates is a mere rule of practice and its omission is not fatal to the process, rule 2(1) of Advocates (professional conduct) Regulations notwithstanding.

 

In determining the contention above, I will refer to the provision of Regulation 2(1) of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations. This  provision  provides that  “ no  Advocate  shall act  for any person   unless he or  she  has  received instructions from   that person  or his  or her  duly  authorized agent..

 

What is the practical meaning of that provision? In  my  opinion  the onus  is on the Advocate so  instructed  to take steps to make it  known  to all concerned that  he/she  has been   duly  instructed. The  prudent  Advocate,  in practice takes out  a  notice  of  instruction informing  the  court   and  opposite counsel of such   instructions.

Where, there is a change  in the instructions again  a prudent  Advocates  files a “Notice  of  change of Advocates.”  All this  is aimed  at  avoiding  a scenario  like  the current   one- where  instructions  end  up  being   challenged. It   is admitted that the instructions to represent the Respondents in the suit from which this application arises were given to Waluku, Mooli & Co. Advocates.

 

See paragraph 5 of Okello Opaire’s affidavit in reply, and   paragraph 4 of Okodoi George’s affidavit. The legal question therefore  which  arises for  determination  is whether  counsel  can  be allowed  the  costs  in a case  he  handled while   practicing  with a different  law firm  on a Bill  of costs  drawn  by another  law firm  to which  he has shifted.

 

The law was discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Kabale

 Housing Estates  Tenants  Association  V.  Kabale  Municipal  Local  Council  CA. 15 of  2013, where  it was noted  that:

a suit  brought  without  instructions  is incompetent.”

The Court referred to the case of Danish Mercantile Co. Ltd V. Beamont  &  Anor. (1951) Ch. CA 680 where  Jenkins  L .J at  page  687 stated  the position as  follows :

I think  that   the true position  is  simply that a solicitor  who  starts  proceedings in the name of a company  without  verifying  whether  he has proper  authority  so to do , or  under  an  erroneous  assumption  of   authority  does so  at his own   peril , and   that  so long as the matter  rests  there, the  action is not  properly  constituted.

In that sense it is a nullity and can  be stayed at anytime, provided that the aggrieved  party  does  not  unduly  delay  his application , but  it is  open  at  any time  to the  purported  plaintiff to  ratify  the act  of  the  Solicitor   who  started  the action  to adopt  the  proceedings to approve all  that has been  done…

 

The import of the law above is that instructions ran with the action itself, they cannot be assumed. The instructions to file the matter from which  this  application arises  having  been  issued to the firm  of  Waluku, Mooli & Co, where  a one  Wabwire  was  a practicing  partner  who  handled the matters   contained in  Annex ‘C’  and  from  which  the  application  before court  is derived, are  deemed  to  have remained with  the said  firm  until  the court  is notified  accordingly.  Counsel  who  had  personal conduct  of the matter, shifted in 2015 to  his  own  law firm  and  argues  that he is entitled  to the  instruction  fees  since  he  conducted the case. That  would  be  correct  if  the current   practice  in legal  practice  in Uganda  in Uganda  is that “clients are taken on as person to holder” that is that each   Advocate operates independently   of their law   firm. The situation  however  in Uganda  Legal  Practice  is that  law firms are  instructed  to  represent  clients, and  it is in the names of such law firms that  individual lawyers  appear (on their  behalf )  to pursue the matters in court.

 

That  position  was persuasively  considered  and laid  down  in the  case  of Uganda  V. Patricia  Ojangole Criminal case  N0. 1/ 2014 by  Hon. J. Gidudu that:-

Besides, instructions to a partnership of lawyers goes to the firm and not to individual Advocates. An individual partner cannot practice law in a partnership firm independent of the other parties.

This would be contrary to the partnership Act...

It is my finding therefore that the firm of M/s Sanya ,Wabwire & Co. Advocates   which  drafted the  Bill of costs , was without  instructions  because  the firm  which  is on record  is that  of M/s Waluku , Mooli&  Co. Advocates. Even Counsel Wabwire is the one who handled the matter, he did so as a partner/ associate of M/s Waluku , Mooli  & Co.  Advocates.  By the time he constituted his own firm in September  2015, the matters  which  are  the  subject of  taxation  were long  done and handled by  him  while practicing under  M/s Waluku , Mooli  & Co. The  instructions were  never withdrawn, and  hence  the  rightful firm  to file  and  apply  for costs  is the firm  of  Mooli & Co. Advocates.  From  the holding  in the  Uganda V. P. Ojangole (supra) case  above  which  I agree with, the  instructions go to the  firm  not  the  individual.

 

I  hold  that  the  firm  of  M/s Sanya Wabwire  & Co. had no locus to file  the bill of costs, and the learned  Registrar taxed the same in  error. I accordingly agree with   the prayer  by the applicant  in  his pleadings and submissions  that the  Respondent’s  Bill  of costs should  never have been taxed; it should have been  expunged  from the record  because  it was foreign  to  the proceedings. This finding conclusively   extinguishes all that applicant’s application seeks from court under ground 1(a) of the Chamber Summons.

 

Under  ground 1(b) , the  applicant  prays  that court  orders  that Respondent  files a fresh  bill of costs through  the law firm  on record of  M/s  Waluku , Mooli &  Co. Advocates. This ground is allowed.

 

The rest of the arguments in the submissions were not pleaded. Parties are bound by their pleadings.

 I do make no findings on them as they were not pleaded.

This application is accordingly allowed. The bill of costs is expunged from the record, the Registrar’s award is quashed, and the Respondent should through Waluku, Mooli  & Co.( who  handled  the matter) file  a proper  bill  of costs  to be  taxed  by the Registrar. Costs of the application granted to the appellant. I so order.

 

 

 

Henry I. Kawesa

JUDGE

06.05.2017