Dodgy Lottery lawyer loses bid to appeal
Court upholds ruling that Lesley Ramulifho’s conduct be investigated
- The Johannesburg High Court has dismissed a bid by attorney Lesley Ramulifho for leave to appeal against a ruling that his conduct be probed by the Legal Practice Council (LPC).
- Ramulifho has been implicated in looting at the National Lotteries Commission.
- A complaint about Ramulifho by GroundUp was dismissed by the LPC.
- But in May this year Judge Seena Yacoob set this aside and ordered the LPC to probe Ramulifho.
- He filed leave to appeal against this decision but this has now been dismissed by Judge Yacoob.
Attorney Lesley Ramulifho, who has been implicated in looting at the National Lotteries Commission, has failed in a bid to get leave to appeal against a ruling that the Legal Practice Council (LPC) properly investigate his conduct.
The complaint to the LPC was laid by GroundUp, relating to four instances in which it was alleged that the lawyer made dishonest statements, under oath, in court proceedings in which he attempted to compel the news agency to remove any articles referring to him. The LPC dismissed the complaint.
GroundUp went to court and secured an order reviewing this. In May this year, Johannesburg High Court Judge Seena Yacoob set aside the LPC’s decision saying it was unlawful, invalid, and unconstitutional.
The judge directed the LPC to investigate the complaint afresh through a proper investigation and in accordance with the Legal Practice Act and the rules.
In those proceedings, only Ramulifho opposed the application, and hence only he was ordered to pay the costs.
He then sought leave to appeal the ruling.
But this week, Judge Yacoob dismissed his application and again ordered him to pay costs.
She said the grounds of appeal were, essentially, that the court was wrong in every finding.
“I do not propose to go through each section. The judgment stands for itself and I am satisfied that, in the main, there is no merit in the numerous assertions that the court erred.”
The judge said she had made one “factual error” — that Ramulifho had acted for himself in the court action against GroundUp when he had, in fact, been represented by another law firm — but that did not change the outcome.
She said the complaint raised the question of the honesty and integrity of an officer of the court in court proceedings.
“There cannot be two standards of honesty for an officer of the court, one where he is a litigant in his own capacity and one where he litigates in his capacity as an attorney. Legal representatives are individuals, and for the courts and the public to be able to rely on them, their honesty must stand up to examination on every level.”
Judge Yacoob said that in Ramulifho’s bid for leave to appeal he had gone into the merits of the matter which were not before her. She had only dealt with the nature of the complaint (by GroundUp to the LPC) and the way it was dealt with by the LPC.
Ramulifho had also submitted that there were other investigations pending, and that GroundUp had laid criminal charges against him. Judge Yacoob said that might be so. But it did not preclude the LPC from investigating the matter.
“The issue here is the protection of the public from a potentially dishonest legal practitioner, and that has to be an extremely high priority. It is not enough to await the outcome, if any, of a criminal investigation. His claims of protection of his rights can be dealt with in due course.
“Legal practitioners who may be subject to criminal investigations cannot prevent the LPC from acting, simply because those investigations are pending.”
The judge said Ramulifho had submitted that there was an internal remedy available to GroundUp, and the court should have stayed proceedings and directed them to approach the LPC Appeal Tribunal.
However, at that time, a tribunal had not been established, she said.
“I am not satisfied that the applicant [Ramulifho] has established that another court would come to a different conclusion … none of the principles set out in the main judgment are especially novel,” Judge Yacoob said.
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